FEBRUARY is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, also known as Teen DV Month or TDVAM. The aim is to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships and promote programmes that prevent it.
While on average one in five South African women older than 18 experience physical violence, abusive teen relationships are sadly very common too. According to reports, for one in three teenagers her first love is an introduction to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, and Mobieg.co.za reports that gender-based violence is more common in South Africa than any other country in the world.
So what exactly is teen violence, you ask? Any controlling, abusive or aggressive behaviour that occurs in one relationship – whether straight or homosexual. Abuse includes physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse, as well as a combination. Teen dating is not only physically dangerous, but emotionally too – it can cause the victim to develop a low self-esteem, depression, become suicidal, develop addiction to drugs or alcohol, develop eating disorders or engage in dangerous sexual activities.
Warning Signs To Look Out For:
- Physical Violence: Anything from shoving, to punching, biting, hitting, kicking or strangling.
- Symbolic Violence: This is the destruction of things that belong to you, such as throwing a TV out the window, breaking a window of a car etc.
- Fast-Paced Relationships: This is an indication of control. Controlling behaviour includes criticism, isolation, jealousy, and dictating what to wear.
- Persistence: If he won’t take no for an answer, it’s not because he’s smitten, say experts – this is a serious sign of abuse.
- Verbal/Emotional Aggression: Name calling, belittling, criticising, or threatening.
- Sexual Aggression: Forceful sexual acts, preventing you from using birth control, unwanted touching/kissing.
- Online Bullying: Posting embarrassing photos or making threats online.
Must-Know Tips For Parents:
PARENTS, read carefully. It could save your child’s life.
- Define A Healthy Relationship: Teach your teens about the foundations of a healthy relationship. They need to learn about respect, mutual understanding, honesty, communication and support.
- Explain The Difference Between Love And Lust: While this can be hard to understand at such a young age, if explained carefully your teens could be saved from an abusive relationship. Make sure they understand what infatuation is, compared to love.
- Talk To Them About Sex: Always be open with your kids – don’t let them find out about sex from anyone else. Be honest and explain the consequences, too.
- Offer Support: Your kids need to know they can come to you at any time, with any problem. They need to feel comfortable to open up about anything.
- Know When To Ask For Outside Help: If you are faced with a situation you can’t handle, ask for help. Consider a family therapist.
- Be A Good Role Model: Kids mimic us, so make sure you are being good role models. Teach your kids what it means to be in a healthy relationship.
ACCORDING to Mobieg.co.za:
- Research showed relationships usually begin at age 14 or younger.
- A third of 11-to-12-year-old’s said they have been in a relationship.
- Sex is considered to be a normal part of a relationship for 11-14-year-olds.
- Twenty five percent of girls revealed that they were pressured to perform sexual acts.
- Twenty five percent of girls reported being subjected to repeated verbal abuse.
- Dating violence happens in about 30 percent of all relationships.
- Young people aged between 12 and 19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.
- Those between the ages of 16 and 24 are the most susceptible to dating violence.
- Ninety percent of the victims of violence in relationships are female; women tend to believe the abuse is their fault and that they don’t deserve better.