What should parents know this Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month?
In 2010, Congress declared February to be National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Throughout February, organizations, advocates, and individuals come together to raise awareness about teen dating violence and educate young people about healthy relationships to break cycles of abuse.
Love is Respect reports:
- Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year
- 1 in 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence
- 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend
The best advice we have for parents is to let your kid know early and often that you are there unconditionally to help him or her. Abusers often rely on isolating their victims and alienating them from their families, and sometimes a parent’s disapproval of a partner makes the teen afraid to come to their parent for help leaving a relationship or confiding about the abuse. – Carrie Goldberg
What does teen dating violence look like?
The Power and Control wheel is a tool used in intimate partner violence support to show the ways that an abuser inflicts violence on those around them. We recreated it to show how power and control are weaponized in teen dating abuse – online and offline.
Teen dating violence takes many forms. It includes but is not limited to: acts of physical abuse, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse; isolation and intimidation; staking; and sexual abuse.
Physical violence includes pushing, shoving, punching, breaking your property, using a weapon or threatening to use a weapon, not letting you leave, not letting you call the police, and more.
Verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse can include insulting you, criticizing you, embarrassing you in public, telling you what to do, not trusting you, being jealous, reading your emails and messages, not letting you make your own decisions, and more.
Isolation is also common in abusive relationships and can look different from relationship to relationship. Some examples of isolation include not letting you see your friends and family, getting annoyed or upset when you spend time on the phone with other people, wanting to live together early on in a relationship, wanting to move far away from your support system, and more.
Intimidation is often used by abusive partners to make you less likely to seek help or space from your partner. Some examples of intimidation include using threats, suggestions, or actions to scare you, refusing to let you leave, displaying or talking about weapons, driving recklessly,
smashing things, and more.
Stalking includes following you; waiting or showing up at your home, job, or school; constantly calling or texting; sending unwanted letters, cards, or emails; monitoring your phone calls or computer use; using social media to track your location; calling you at work or calling your boss and coworkers.
Sexual abuse includes all sexual behavior that is unwanted and conducted without consent from both partners. Some examples of sexual abuse include physically forcing or coercing you to have sex, unwanted kissing or touching, not letting you use birth control or exposing you to STDs, giving you drugs or alcohol so that you have less control, and more.
The Center for Disease Control reports that teen dating violence has both short-term and long-term consequences. Survivors of dating violence may struggle with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and unhealthy behaviors which include alcohol and drug use as they cope with the consequences of such relationships.
Some warning signs of teen dating violence that parents can be aware of (these are not all/always present – just things to look out for that may be a sign to dig deeper):
- A marked increase in message notifications or calls to your teen’s device (if you have access to your teen’s device,
- Becoming isolated from family or friends; focusing solely on activities involving their partner
- Signs of drug/ alcohol abuse (either drugs can be used as a coping mechanism, or an abusive partner could be pushing/forcing the victim to take drugs)
- Sudden changes in appearance that are outside the norm
- Unexplained bruises or marks
The role of technology in teen dating violence
Technology plays an integral role in relationships and daily life today. Especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when much of school and socializing moved online for young people, iterations of teen dating violence that involve tech, from sextortion, to revenge porn, to stalking, have been on the rise.
NY.gov reports that:
- 10% of teens claim that they have been threatened physically by email, text, or chat
- 1 in 3 teens who have been in a relationship say that they’ve been text messaged 10 to 30 times an hour by a partner
- 19% say that their partner used a cell phone or the internet to spread rumors about them
Tech abuse can take on many forms. Some examples:
- Monitoring your devices, messages, social media accounts
- Sending aggressive messages to you
- Coercing you to sext or send intimate pictures or video of yourself
- Spreading or threating to spread secrets, images, or intimate videos
- Harassing you with repeated phone calls or messages
- Demanding access to online banking or other personal accounts
- Sending anonymous or ‘spoofed’ messages or calls
- Tagging or posting hurtful or abusive things on social media
- Telling you who you can and cannot communicate with or be friends with
- Tracking your location and monitoring you
When teen dating violence occurs at school
Sadly, we see many cases of teen dating violence at our law firm. And we have also seen too many school districts fail to enact appropriate policies to address teen victimization. C.A. Goldberg, PLLC’s latest lawsuit against the New York City Department of Education (“NYCDOE”) on behalf of Jane Doe, a student of Brooklyn Tech, who was the victim of an escalating campaign of abuse at age 15 spotlighted the injuries being inflicted on young victims when a school district fails to enact appropriate policies to address sexual and tech-enabled violence.
The New York City Department of Education has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and federal investigations into discrimination and retaliation against girls who reported sexual violence by another classmate during school. Yet it has not taken action to protect child victims of teen dating abuse and sexual violence.
In Chapter 4 of her book Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls, Carrie Goldberg reflects on her work with three middle-school-aged girls of color from New York City. Goldberg describes the Title IX complaint she filed with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights on behalf of Vanessa, who alleged a classmate sexually assaulted her when she was 13:
“When I opened my firm, the idea of representing clients who were still in middle school wasn’t even on my radar. But by 2018, I’d filed seven Title IX complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, including five on behalf of middle and high school students who were sexually violated by their peers, then shamed and blamed by the school officials who were supposed to be protecting them.”
If your child is experiencing tech-enabled abuse, you can contact us to talk about your options.