Teen dating violence, part 1 | Guest column

Submitted by Matalika Lyons, 8th grade

February is Teen Dating Violence (TDV) Awareness Month, and this year SAFE San Juans has invited local youth to write articles pertaining to the topic. Dating violence includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse or violence that can happen within all relationships – even teenagers – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Provention.

In a survey conducted at the Lopez Island Secondary School, 17 percent of 54 students reported having experienced TDV themselves. Alarmingly, 40 percent of the students also reported knowing someone who had experienced similar abuse.

Approximately 10 percent of all high school students reported experiencing physical dating violence within the past year, and around 10 percent of those teens report experiencing sexual dating during that time, according to the CDC. Our school average is not much different from any other school. Multiple teens have encountered one or more of these types of abuses.

Teens may not notice red flags that lead up to abuse, but there are signs they should be conscious. For instance, a partner wanting things to move faster than one might be comfortable with, for example, pressuring them into sex. Their partner also may not trust them, be constantly asking questions about their whereabouts and whom they have been with. The relactionship can affect their relationships with peers, with the partner getting jealous of platonic relationships. Another example is a partner insulting them with the intention to make them feel bad or self-conscious or intentionally hitting or throwing objects at them. All of these are examples of abuse of which we should be aware.

Statistically, 81 percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or they don’t know that it is, according to loveisrespect.org. Parents who are unsure if it’s an issue can pay attention to signs such as declining grades, lack of self-care, depression and drug use. If a teen shows these symptoms while in a romantic dating relationship, there is a chance that they are experiencing dating violence.

So how can parents help? Parents, to help your child feel more comfortable talking about their dating relationships, remember to be open to information your teen shares and try to abstain from making snap judgments. Practice active listening instead of only listening to respond. Be open-minded to your child’s emotions and concerns. Be prepared to navigate tough conversations and situations with your youth. The more prepared you are now the more it will help your child build confidence and trust within your own relationship, encouraging them to continue reaching out for future help and advice. Youth may be reluctant to explain what is happening, and suggesting they’re lying could cause them to hold back details about their situation, ultimately making it more difficult to help them.

What are resources for a teen? SAFE San Juans is the local domestic violence and sexual assault agency that offers free confidential help and information to all ages. SAFE offers services such as a 24-hour crisis line available by calling 360-468-4567 and a non-urgent line at 360-468-3788, Monday-Thursday. Loveisrespect.org is another great place to go for someone to talk to for instance, call 1-866-331-9474.