February is recognized as Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month. We call attention to the abuse happening in youth dating relationships by educating young people about characteristics of unhealthy relationships and teaching healthy relationship skills to prevent the devastating cycle of abuse. Our hope is that today's youth can have a future free from violence.
Teen dating violence is a pattern of destructive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. Warning signs of an unhealthy, abusive dating relationship may include: quick involvement in the relationship, trying to control different aspects of their partner's life (i.e. how to dress and with whom to socialize), acting jealous or possessive, threatening harm, demanding to know where their partner is, controlling all the decision-making in the relationship, any physical harm and a history of abusing partners.
Throughout the U.S., one in three teens is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. This rate is higher than all other forms of youth violence. According to the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 12 percent of Marshfield teens reported during the past 12 months their boyfriend or girlfriend has hit, slapped or physically hurt them on purpose.
In Marshfield, the Personal Development Center Inc., or PDC, Domestic Violence and Assault Services is a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening individuals and families and creating a community free from the threat of violence. For nearly 35 years, PDC has been providing community awareness and preventative programming.
PDC assists victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, dating violence, elder abuse and stalking. It also serves children and youth who have witnessed or experienced violence in the home, or have been physically, emotionally or sexually abused. Domestic violence has no boundaries - anyone of any age can find themselves in an unhealthy, unsafe relationship. The impact of violence touches not only the victims, but family members, friends, schools and our community.
Today's youth represent the future - it is vital that we address teen dating violence so that unhealthy patterns of behavior will not continue as teens grow into adulthood. Victims of teen dating violence are more likely to become adult victims of domestic violence. Teens who exert power and control over their dating partners are more likely to become adult perpetrators of domestic violence.
If we cultivate healthy values and relationship skills among young people, we can reduce violence now and in the future.