February is Dating Violence Awareness Month
Updated: Mar 10
Feb. 1, 2021
By Corinne Sigmund, Life Together Fellow
Over 13 million young people experience dating abuse every year. This number is more than the populations of Los Angeles and New York City combined. When we think of abuse, we may think of it as occurring within a married couple. However, violence can happen in dating relationships as well. It can happen to people of any age, including teens. In February, we honor Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Dating abuse (also known as teen dating violence, dating violence, intimate partner violence, or relationship abuse) is a pattern of abusive behaviors that occurs over time and is used to exert power and control over a partner in an intimate relationship. For young adults, an intimate relationship is a step above platonic friendship that usually includes a significant emotional attachment.
Every relationship is different, but the things that unhealthy and abusive relationships have in common are issues of power and control. Violent and/or hurtful words and actions are tools an abusive person uses to gain and maintain power and control over their partner. Any young person can experience dating abuse or an unhealthy relationship, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic standing, ethnicity, faith, or culture. Abuse can happen to anyone, in any relationship, whether that relationship is casual or serious.
This public health epidemic can affect anyone. However, it is important to note that sexual violence, physical violence, and stalking disproportionately impact young people. In fact, young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience intimate partner violence at rates almost triple the national average. Tragically, 1 in 3 high school students who are dating report physical or sexual violence. More than half of the women (69.5%) and men (53.6%) who report physical or sexual abuse or stalking by a dating partner first experienced the abuse when they were between the ages of 11 and 24. These statistics are staggering, and they don’t even include the two- thirds of young adult victims who never report the abuse. This widespread abuse is closely connected to other problems facing young people, such as suicide, teen pregnancy, and drug use.
Intimate relationships are critically important to young people and can consume their time in school or on social media. These relationships are just as important as adult relationships and the dangers are as important as well. It is vital that parents and other caring adults listen to young people, speak about and understand the scope of abuse in their relationships, work to prevent future abuse, and learn to respond with support and resources.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
National Dating Abuse Hotline:
Call (866) 331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.
www.loveisrespect.org. Loveisrespect’s purpose is to engage, educate, and empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-7233
Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673
Safe Havens Interfaith Partnership Against Domestic Violence and Elder Abuse links faith communities with domestic violence education through national and local work.