February 2006 article
February 6-10, 2006, is Teen Dating Violence Prevention Week. The National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC) defines dating violence as “controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can happen in straight or gay relationships. [And it] can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination of them.”
According to the Rape Treatment Center, “About 50 percent of rape victims are under 18 years of age when they are victimized.” The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) reports that “young females are four times more likely than any other group to be the victims of sexual assault, and the least likely to report their victimization.”
While these statistics are shocking, RAINN also reports that since 1994 the incidence of rape has plummeted by more than 64 percent. However, it is still important for teens to be aware of their surroundings and their partner’s behavior. To prevent dating violence, teens must also exercise responsibility--the majority of males and females involved in acquaintance rape are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Many victims of dating violence are unwilling or unable to leave their partners because of emotional attachment, low self-esteem, and, often, fear of retaliation.
Below are some tips to help teens protect themselves against dating violence or get help if they become a victim:
1. Teens, remember that you are in control of your own behavior, and that you have the right and responsibility to keep yourself safe. Read the Dater’s Bill of Rights below:
- I have the right to refuse a date without feeling guilty.
- I can ask for a date without feeling rejected or inadequate if the answer is no.
- I do not have to act macho.
- I may choose not to act seductively.
- If I don’t want physical closeness, I have the right to say so.
- I have the right to start a relationship slowly, to say, “I want to know you better before I become involved.”
- I have the right to be myself without changing to suit others.
- I have the right to change a relationship when my feelings change. I can say, “We used to be close, but I want something else now.”
- If I am told a relationship is changing, I have the right not to blame or change myself to keep it going.
- I have the right to an equal relationship with my partner.
- I have the right not to dominate or be dominated.
- I have the right to act one way with one person and a different way with someone else.
- I have the right to change my goals whenever I want to.
2. There are many early warning signs of dating violence. Ask yourself:
- Is your partner jealous or possessive?
- Does your partner dislike your parents or friends?
- Does your partner have traditional ideas of male and female roles?
- Do you get a lot of negative teasing from your partner, even in front of friends?
- Does your partner have a quick temper?
- Does your partner “playfully” slap you and shove you?
- Does your partner’s behavior change because he or she drinks or uses drugs?
- Do you feel it is your responsibility to make the relationship work?
- Are you expected to change your behavior to suit your partner?
- Are you afraid of what your partner might do when angry, whether with you or someone else?
- Are you afraid to express feelings of your own or make decisions about what to wear, where to go, or whom to like?
- Does your partner demand to know where you are at all times?
- Does your partner make you afraid to say no to sex?
- Does your partner respect your wish to practice safe sex?
- Are you afraid to end the relationship?
3. What can you do if you are a victim of dating violence? Here are some measures you can take to protect yourself.
- Speak with a parent, teacher, counselor, law enforcement officer, or adult you trust and get help immediately. Although abusers may sometimes be loving people, dating violence consists of hostile and abusive acts.
- Create a “safety plan” to prevent a violent attack. Take precautions; let parents and friends know where you are and with whom.
- Obtain a court order against the abuser.
- Keep a written record of the abusive incidents.
- File a police report.
Need more information?
- Consult Community Works, Volume 2. Sessions 14 and 15 address dating violence and sexual assault.
- Visit the Dating Violence Resource Center of the National Center for Victims for resources and tips on preventing dating violence.
- Visit the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center for resources, statistics, and news on a variety of youth violence issues, including dating violence.
- Visit the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN). RAINN, the largest anti-sexual assault organization in the United States, has a sexual assault hotline at 800-656-HOPE that operates 24/7.