As preventionists, we work to promote changing social norms as well as increasing bystander interventions and individual skills for healthy relationships. This includes teens as well as adults. Healthy relationships, whether with family, friends, or a dating partner are so important to our everyday lives because they create a sense of belonging. Unfortunately with teens, some dating relationships are not healthy and can become abusive. For schools and other civic organizations that work with teens, there is no time like the present to create change for those engaged in abusive relationships.
What are we trying to change?
In spring 2015, the Connecticut Department of Public Health in partnership with the State Department of Education conducted a Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) that was completed by 2,398 students in 41 public, charter, and vocational high schools in Connecticut. Their findings indicated that:
- 29.8% of high school students reported that someone they were dating or going out with purposely tried to control them or emotionally hurt them (such as being told who they could and could not spend time with, being humiliated in front of others, or being threatened if they did not do what they were told) one or more times during the past 12 months.
- 11.5% of high school students reported that someone they were dating or going out with forced them to do sexual things when they did not want to (such as kissing, touching, or being physically forced to have sexual intercourse) one or more times during the past 12 months.
- 8.0% of high school students reported that someone they were dating or going out with physically hurt them on purpose (such as being hit, slammed into something, or injured with an object or weapon) one or more times in the past 12 months.
Dating abuse starts even younger than you think and can be a common occurrence in teen relationships. Because relationships exist on a spectrum, it can be hard to tell when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Many young people perceive a partner’s jealous and controlling behavior as love or affection, when it is often the first sign of an abusive relationship. By using these warning signs of abuse, you can tell if someone’s relationship is going in the wrong direction:
- Constantly texts and calls their partner to keep track of who they are with or their whereabouts
- Monitors their partner’s social media
- Uses anger and jealousy to manipulate their partner
- Tells their partner who they can hang out with, how to dress
- Isolates their partner from friends and even family or shows up uninvited
- Forces their partner to have sex when they are not ready or don’t consent
- Pushes, shoves or strikes their partner
It’s critical that teens have access to information about healthy dating behaviors and warning signs that their relationship might be abusive. In Connecticut, td411 (CCADV’s teen dating violence awareness mobile app) can do just that. By paying attention to ways in which teens communicate, td411 provides necessary information about healthy relationships and teen dating violence through their phone or mobile device. The mobile app allows its user to learn healthy behaviors for dating relationships and the signs of abuse, check out important safety tips, and view videos to help support a friend. If you have teens in your life, encourage them to download td411 so they have it readily accessible in case they or one of their friends needs help. You can also download the app so you’re ready when a teen in your life has questions, you can respond with helpful and accurate information. Visit the App Store or Google Play today!