Did you know that February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? I know, it sounds so depressing and I realize statistics are not the most interesting thing. But, bare with me a moment if you will.
You are at that age where you are finding yourself. You are hanging with friends, living life to the fullest, and figuring out what kind of person compliments you in the dating world. Maybe you have been dating for a few years, or maybe you have not yet had your first date. It really doesn’t matter where you fall on the spectrum, this information is important. I hope you will lock it away and consider it when you are looking for Mr. or Miss. Right.
Real love is kind, compassionate, fun, and trusting. When it starts to deviate from these characteristics, it is time to do a little introspection.
Girls, most of this is geared toward you. Boys, you need to be aware that it can also happen to you. Sadly, society just doesn’t talk about it as much. You know, boys are supposed to be tough and stuff. Tough doesn’t mean you deserve to be treated badly by a girl who claims to love you…or anyone for that matter.
In the United States, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence. (loveisrespect.org)
According to the CDC, “The term “intimate partner violence” (IPV) describes physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner.”
You are right in the middle of it and that is not ok!
Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18, and in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence, the severity of IPV is often much greater. That means that if your boy/girlfriend is treating you badly as a teen, chances are it is going to get much worse as you get older.
I know this from experience. You see, I started dating my husband at 15. The little signs were there; jealousy, control, pulling me away from friends and family. But, I didn’t want to see them as abuse or being treated badly. He loved me, you know? I was going to spend my life with him and it would all get better. Right? Wrong.
It doesn’t get better. I am lucky to be alive today and lost precious years of my life with a man who didn’t really love me at all.
But at your age, the numbers are raw and scary. 43% of dating college women have experienced violence and abusive behaviors from their partner and 1 in 6 have been sexually abused in a dating relationship. (loveisrespect.org).
What is scarier still is that 81% of parents believe that teen dating violence is NOT an issue, or they admit that they don’t know anything about it. That means it is up to you. You need to know your boundaries. You need to know the warning signs. You need to respect yourself enough to demand respect from others.
I am writing this letter to you because I don’t want you to become a statistic. I don’t want you to live the life I lived. You deserve to be loved and respected by whomever you decide to date, spend time with, or marry.
My challenge to you is this: Go check out the website loveisrespect.org, learn about red flags, what healthy looks like, and what true love is all about. Talk to your friends about life and happiness, share your fears with those who love you, strike up a conversation with your parents or an adult you trust, and take ownership of your body, your heart, and yourself.
Love is respect. Love is kindness. Love is not abuse. Remember those things during every date you go on and be true to yourself. You’ve got this. Enjoy your life and love yourself first and foremost, because if you don’t, who will?
I wish you all the best and happiness life has to offer. You’ve got this!