Dating violence is widespread among teens and young adults, affecting one in three girls in the U.S., and nearly 1.5 million high school students each year.
Yet only 33 percent of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever disclosed the abuse, reports Cheryl O'Neil, executive director of Caring House, Iron Mountain's shelter for domestic violence victims.
The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center defines teen dating violence as the act of threat of violence by one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within a dating relationship.
This can include any form of sexual, verbal, emotional, financial or digital abuse.
Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
"Unfortunately, teen violence occurs here in our community just as it does elsewhere in our nation," O'Neil said.
"Caring House's Teen Program has seen an average of 50 teens seeking services annually. This number reflects just as small percentage of the abuse that is occurring," she said.
"As with domestic violence, most incidents go unreported. As teens become more aware of abusive behaviors they are far more likely to seek assistance," O'Neil said.
Calling dating violence a pattern doesn't mean the first instance of abuse is not dating violence, she added. It just recognizes that dating violence usually involves a series of abusive behaviors over a course of time.
Teens and young adults experience the same types of abuse in relationships as adults. O'Neil said this abuse includes:
- Physical Abuse: Any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.
- Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
- Sexual Abuse: Any action that impacts a person's ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.
- Digital Abuse: Use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or ex-dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on Facebook or other social media.
"It is important for teens, both male and female, to understand the importance of having a respectful relationship that does not include violence or other forms of abuse," said Trooper Stacey Rasanen of the Michigan State Police Post at Negaunee. "No relationship is worth putting your life in danger, so it is important to recognize the early warning signs."
While there are many warning signs of abuse, here are ten common abusive behaviors:
- Checking your cell phone or email without permission.
- Constantly putting you down.
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity.
- Explosive temper.
- Isolating you from family or friends.
- Making false accusations.
- Mood swings.
- Physically hurting you in any way.
- Telling you what to do.
Below, Rasanen lists some signs that may indicate you or someone you know may be in an abusive relationship:
- Your partner has trouble dealing with his or her anger.
- Your partner acts out in a physical way by throwing objects and hitting things.
- Your partner exhibits extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, quick involvement, unpredictable mood swings, alcohol and drug use, hypersensitivity and is verbally abusive.
- You partner isolates you from your family and friends.
- Your partner uses force during an argument.
- Your partner threatens violence.
- Your partner is cruel to animals and/or children.
- Your partner is always blaming others for their problems and feelings.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, seek help as soon as possible.
Confide in a parent, teacher, counselor, police officer or contact the National Teen Dating Abuse hotline at 1-866-331-9474, or call Caring House at 774-1112.