Teen Dating Violence is an issue that affects approximately 33% of teenagers in some way. The violence can be physical, emotional, and/or verbal, and can include isolation, harassment and threats. The Texas Young Lawyers Association defines harassment as "conduct that threatens to cause harm or bodily injury to another person, is sexually intimidating, causes physical damage to the property of another person, subjects another person to physical confinement or substantially harms another person’s physical or emotional health or safety."
Abuse is NOT the occasional argument, but a pattern of coercive and abusive behaviors that seek to maintain power and control over the victim. Warning signs that someone may be in a abusive relationship include:
- Failing grades
- Changes in mood or personality, including increased indecision and refusal to give an opinion
- Depression and isolation
- Excuses for their abuser's behavior
- Physical signs such as bruising or cuts
Teen dating violence, though disproportionately affects female students, affects male students as well.
If a friend confides that she/he is an abusive relationship do NOT investigate or confront the abuser; instead, the Texas Young Lawyers Association recommends telling a trusted adult and creating a safety plan for your friend. This could include getting law enforcement involved, telling trusted school officials or joining a support group.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective services has a toll free hotline (1-800-252-5400) if a minor is at risk for adverse health affects due to the abuse.
Most importantly, when confronted with such a situation, DO act and talk to your friend with what steps she/he is comfortable with taking; teen dating violence can take lives.
There are considerable legal protections for teens victims of abuse. Do not be afraid to apply for a legal order of protection from a court, if this option is available to you.
Most importantly, know that you, or your friend, are not alone. Teen dating violence affects countless lives, and there are people out there who support you and are on your side.
(For more in depth information, please check out the Texas Advocacy Project)