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Teen dating violence is more common than many believe, experts say

Photo of Teen Dating Violence victim
One of the most important ways to prevent dating violence is to stop it at the root of the problem by addressing why abusers choose to harm a dating partner. (File Photos/

Experts share signs of teen dating violence

Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. A 2017 survey found 60% of teens experienced verbal, emotional or physical violence in a dating relationship, according to Donna Bartos, CEO and founder of BLOOM365.

“Teen dating violence profoundly impacts the safety and social and emotional well-being of young people,” Ms. Bartos said in a prepared statement.

“Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Abusive teen relationships can lead to a host of societal issues like poor academic performance, binge drinking and substance abuse, suicide attempts, negative body image and low self-esteem, as well as violence in future relationships.”

There are several forms of dating violence, which all stem from power and control, Ms. Bartos explains.

They include physical violence and sexual violence, where a partner is forced into sex acts without consent. Sexual abuse can also include non-physical sexual behaviors like posting or sharing explicit pictures online without a partner’s consent or sexting someone without permission. Mental and psychological abuse and stalking are also considered dating abuse.

According to Ms. Bartos, one of the most important ways to prevent dating violence is to stop it at the root of the problem by addressing why abusers choose to harm a dating partner. She says there are several factors that contribute to teen dating violence perpetration, including witnessing the normalization of violence at home or in the community; believing it’s acceptable to threaten, intimidate or use force to get one’s way; low self-esteem; feeling powerless; rigid belief in gender roles and not having positive adult role models who demonstrate healthy relationships.

“The good news is teen dating violence is preventable and as a community we can help a whole generation of young people cultivate safe and healthy relationships,” Ms. Bartos points out. “Our goal should be to reduce risk factors for teen violence perpetration, as well as foster skills young people need to form positive and healthy relationships in and out of school.”

BLOOM365, founded in 2006, is committed to amplifying voices of Arizona’s youth by educating and activating students as peer advocates who know how to recognize the signs of abuse and are equipped with the confidence and skills to safely respond when a friend or peer is going through it. Research shows teens are more likely to disclose victimization or the use of dating violence to each other rather than to adults.

“We know that to root out dating violence requires a whole generation of youth working together to plant the seeds of change necessary to shift social norms,” Ms. Bartos added. “Someday, Gen Z youth will hold positions of power that will provide them an immense opportunity to accelerate primary prevention education and early intervention efforts in schools, communities and major institutions.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence call or text 1-888-606-4673 (HOPE) for free, confidential and non-judgmental support.

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