Domestic violence is a topic that few want to talk about. It is a silent epidemic that may be seen through bruises and cuts or heard through yelling and screaming. Too often, nothing happens to stop it. So many stay silent about their abuse, not realizing that the choice to remain silent may have harsher consequences than the abuse itself. We’re familiar with this topic as it pertains to adults, but many are surprised to find that dating abuse is so prevalent among adolescents and young people.
At NYC Domestic Violence, we work to not only educate but also empower young people to build healthy relationships. We use pop culture, social media, and education programs to give teenagers the information they need to learn what dating abuse is and how to see the warning signs.
What exactly is dating abuse? We define it as “a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.” In 2012, the United States Census found that there were more than 41 million teens, making up 14 percent of the population. Dating abuse may not seem common among youths, but one in three young adults will experience some form of it. That’s 13 million teens who are affected.
Today our youths are facing several forms of dating abuse: physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, digital, and financial.
The type of abuse we are most accustomed to seeing is physical, which is any use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, such as hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking, or using a weapon.
Verbal or emotional abuse is any nonphysical behavior, such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation, or stalking. This form of abuse may be harder to spot. For example, isolation may not seem like a form of abuse, but not allowing your partner to spend time with his or her friends and family is one method of control.
We may believe we know what sexual abuse is, but it’s important that we define it. It is any action that affects a person’s ability to control his or her sexual activity or the circumstances in which it occurs, including rape, coercion, or the restriction of access to birth control. In the last few months, the topic of sexual abuse has circulated widely on dozens of college campuses as stories of poorly handled sexual assault cases have come to light.
While we know that teens text, tweet, post, and so on, we may not know how technology lends itself to potential abuse. Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. In most cases, this type of abuse is emotional and/or verbal and though it is perpetuated online, it has a strong impact on a victim’s real life.
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