Thank you to everyone who made this month a success!
We are so thankful to all who helped give teens a voice this February during Teen Dating Violence (TDV) Awareness Month! Throughout February, teens sent in letters sharing their perspective on why teen dating violence needs more awareness, and what they believe the community can do to support them.
While this can often be a difficult conversation, this month Spokane helped battle the statistic that 81% of parents don’t know or don’t think that teen dating violence is an issue. We are especially thankful for KHQ, KXLY, and The Spokesman-Review for covering this campaign and helping spread awareness on teen dating violence!
In case you missed our call out for teen letters and information on teen dating violence, see our advocates Rachael McCrady and Jessi Taylor discuss Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month below:
Thank you to Spokane’s teens
We are so grateful to all the teens who shared their perspective with us! It takes great courage to share one’s voice on such a difficult topic, and we are so thankful for these teens taking a stand to bring awareness to an issue that affects their community. Below are some examples of letters we received:
“It’s important to talk about Teen Dating Violence because it makes teenagers feel like they can be open with each other and adults in their lives. Teens often feel like they can’t talk about their situation out of fear of being judged and put down about their feelings and experiences. Talking about dating violence with your kids/students will empower them to speak out when they are experiencing dating violence or when someone around them is experiencing dating violence. Adults should know that we often need more support, understanding, what a healthy relationship looks like, and how to attain that. Having conversations around what good communication, boundaries, and intentions look like is imperative to helping us gain skills to be successful in any form of relationships we have.”- Elizabeth, Age 17
“Having a very close family member deal with emotional and physical abuse, I wish dating violence was more talked about. If more people were educated on this topic I could only hope people would know what to look for and how to handle these situations in the real world.”- Sarah
“I personally think it’s important to talk about teen dating violence and healthy relationships. The one thing that I have notice[d] the most in teen relationships is couple[s] being controlling of each other. Another issue for teen relationship[s] is trust. If you don’t have trust in the person you love, then you shouldn’t be together.”- Brieanna
“Teen dating violence is a problem overlooked. Young kids who are brutal to one another or making them feel bad is [a] problem because as they grow up with that person, they feel trapped and can’t improve themselves because of the violence. Many couples walk around happy and strong. Many would look like it too, but sometimes they are forced to. As someone stays in a toxic relationship, eventually they will adapt to it and not care anymore. Depression will take over them and that’s how they aren’t happy. Adults can do so much to help, even their [a teen’s] own parents can help. Most of the times parents will care and help you out. Adults should also look for signs of bad relationships or an abusive partner. People can break a toxic person’s ego they can get scared and back off their partner. A healthy relationship really can make someone happy. Stay kind to each other and know that happiness is the matriarch of life.” –Lee, Age 18
“I believe it is important to talk about Teen Violence and healthy relationships, because some people may be in a relationship and not know it is a harmful relationship. They may think that what is happening is normal but in fact, it may be the opposite. They may be being used for something or getting involved with the wrong things. Some relationships may end in violence but you could never see it coming. So I think it is great to talk about Teen Violence and Healthy Relationships to let parents and teens alike know what to look out (for) and so that no one gets hurt.”- Rachel, Age 17
“It’s important to talk about teen dating violence and healthy relationships because more teens fall victim than you realize. Teens living in your city, in your school district, and in your neighborhood. Experiencing dating violence causes lots of trauma to a person, especially an emotionally vulnerable teenager. Having an unhealthy relationship can cause anxiety, depression, loss of self-respect and so many more things that teenagers, or people for that matter, should not be experiencing. Parents can help by not only having the “sex talk” with their children, they should have the “healthy relationship” talk too. They need to teach them what love and consent looks like (Hint: it is not a little boy pinching and pulling on a little girl’s hair because he likes her). Parents need to create safe and open communication with their children, so that if something were to happen, they would know they have someone to help and talk to.”- Madelyn, Age 17
Moving forward beyond February
While Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month may only last through February, teen dating violence happens all year long. As a community, we must continue to bring awareness to this issue and encourage teens to seek out help if they, or someone they know, is experiencing dating violence.
Talk to your friend about dating violence
Talking to a friend about their relationship is a totally normal and healthy conversation to have. Some things you can do if your friend is experiencing teen dating violence are: don’t gossip, believe their story, tell them they don’t deserve to be abused, let your friend make decisions, make a safety plan, and get help from a community resource. A school guidance counselor or YWCA Spokane are both great resources to talk to if you or a friend is experiencing an abusive relationship.
Talk to Your Teen about dating violence
One of the major insights we heard from teens this month is that they want parents to believe this is a real issue and to help prepare them to have a healthy relationship. Talking about what healthy relationships look like, and what abusive relationships look like, is very important to teens and can help prepare them for healthy relationships as an adult. To help parents talk their teens about dating violence, below are some tips for communication and helpful conversations to have.
Some key things to talk to teens about are boundaries, communication, red flags, and what to expect in a partner. Knowing one’s own boundaries with what they are okay within a relationship is essential, and each person’s boundaries may be different.
Tips for Communication with your Teen
Communication can be hard for teens at times, but it is very important to a healthy relationship. Some tips to share with your teen to communicate better, courtesy of LoveisRespect, are:
- Find the Right Time. If something is bothering you and you would like to have a conversation about it, it can be helpful to find the right time to talk. Try to find a time when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted, stressed or in a rush. You might even consider scheduling a time to talk if one or both of you are really busy!
- Talk Face to Face. Avoid talking about serious matters or issues in writing. Text messages, letters, and emails can be misinterpreted. Talk in person so there aren’t any unnecessary miscommunications. If you’re having trouble collecting your thoughts, consider writing them down ahead of time and reading them out loud to your partner.
- Do Not Attack. Even when we mean well, we can sometimes come across as harsh because of our word choice. Using “you” can sound like you’re attacking, which will make your partner defensive and less receptive to your message. Instead, try using “I” or “we.” For example, say “I feel like we haven’t been as close lately” instead of “You have been distant with me.”
- Be Honest. Agree to be honest. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s the key to a healthy relationship. Admit that you aren’t always perfect and apologize when you make a mistake instead of making excuses. You will feel better and it will help strengthen your relationship.
- Check Your Body Language. Let your partner know you’re really listening by giving them your full attention: sit up, face them and make eye contact when speaking. Don’t take a phone call, text or play a video game when you’re talking. Show your partner you respect them by listening and responding.
- Use the 48 Hour Rule. If your partner does something that makes you angry, you need to tell them about it. But you don’t have to do so right away. If you’re still hurt 48 hours later, say something. If not, consider forgetting about it. But remember your partner can’t read your mind. If you don’t speak up when you’re upset, there is no way for them to apologize or change. Once you do mention your hurt feelings and your partner sincerely apologizes, let it go. Don’t bring up past issues if they’re not relevant.
Tips for Your Teen to Communicate When Angry
- Stop. If you get really angry about something, stop, take a step back and breathe. Tell your partner you’d like to take a short break before continuing the conversation. Give yourself time to calm down by watching TV, talking to a friend, playing a video game, taking a walk, listening to some music or whatever helps you relax. Taking a break can keep the situation from getting worse.
- Think. After you’re no longer upset, think about the situation and why you got so angry. Was it how your partner spoke or something they did? Figure out the real problem then think about how to explain your feelings.
- Talk. Finally, talk to your partner and when you do, follow the tips above.
- Listen. After you tell your partner how you feel, remember to stop talking and listen to what they have to say. You both deserve the opportunity to express how you feel in a safe and healthy environment.
Red Flags of Teen Dating Violence
Red flags of someone who is in an unhealthy/abusive relationship are important to talk about, as teens may not be aware certain behaviors are not healthy due to social or cultural norms. According to LoveisRespect, red flags of Teen DV include:
- Checking your cell phone or email without permission
- Constantly putting you down
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Explosive temper
- Isolating you from family or friends
- Making false accusations
- Mood swings
- Physically hurting you in any way
- Telling you what to do
- Pressuring or forcing you to have sex
Helping Your Teen Understand What a Good Partner Looks Like
Lastly, teens often model their relationships by what they see in their lives, social media, movies, or television, and those relationships are not always healthy or modeling good relationships. Teens should know what they should look for in a partner, and really, what they deserve in a partner. Here is a list of qualities, courtesy of LoveisRespect, to look for in a partner if you want to share with a teen you care about.
- Treats you with respect.
- Doesn’t make fun of things you like or want to do.
- Never puts you down.
- Doesn’t get angry if you spend time with your friends or family.
- Listens to your ideas and is able to compromise with you.
- Isn’t excessively negative.
- Shares some of your interests and supports you in pursuing what you love.
- Isn’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings.
- Is comfortable around your friends and family.
- Is proud of your accomplishments and successes.
- Respects your boundaries and does not abuse technology.
- Doesn’t require you to “check in” or need to know where you are all the time.
- Is caring and honest.
- Doesn’t pressure you to do things that you don’t want to do.
- Doesn’t constantly accuse you of cheating or being unfaithful.
- Encourages you to do well in school or at work.
- Doesn’t threaten you or make you feel scared.
- Understands the importance of healthy relationships.
Partner with YWCA’s Prevention Team
YWCA Spokane’s Prevention Team currently works with local organizations and schools on the prevention of teen dating violence by providing support groups and educational opportunities. We hope to grow our outreach into additional schools and youth-related establishments. For more information on what the Prevention Team is doing, and how to involve your teen, or if you are interested in prevention work, please contact our Lead Prevention Specialist Rachael McCrady firstname.lastname@example.org.