An exciting and fun time yet stressful, too. Teens are navigating their different feelings, new situations and experiences for the first time. Unexpectedly abusive behaviors unfortunately are a part of the experience for some teenagers.
Assault/abuse can be in various forms; physical force/ harm, sexual, intimidation, humiliation (emotional) or verbal (threats, name calling). Violence does not discriminate on age, gender, race, or sexual orientation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a survey taken in 2013, conveyed that approximately 10 % of students in high school reported physical abuse and 10% reported a sexual assault from a partner in a twelve month period. Another statistic the CDC shares is that 1 in 4 adolescent’s report abuse (sexual, physical, emotional or verbal) by a partner each year.
Teen dating abuse can happen in person, via social media, cell phones, or text messages. Violence can occur in private or in public forums and impact teens functioning in many ways. Teaching our teenagers about assault and having an open dialogue with them is important. This conversation should not to be avoided or ignored. Starting the conversation before they become involved in a relationship is most ideal.
A parent can help a teenager stay safe, be well informed and know what to do if he or she may need help. A parent’s role is also vital before a relationship begins, during and once an assault has happened. The response an adult gives can set the stage for how a person handles their situation in regards to seeking or accepting help.
What does a parent educate their teen about?
- Consent vs Coercion:
- Coercion:feeling pressured to do something
- Consent: making an active choice to agree to do something
- Body Safety / How and when to say “NO”
- Healthy relationships
- Setting limits and having boundaries with partners
- Appropriate dating behaviors
- Reinforce no one deserves to be mistreated
- Give information about risky situations
- Substance use / parties / isolated settings
- Paying attention to instincts
- Safety plans
- When on a date or at a party
Information for parents to consider:
- Any teen can encounter sexual assault regardless of their gender or sexual orientation
- Perpetrators are frequently someone your teen will know
- Online safety and appropriate use of cell phones is critical
- Delayed disclosures are common
- Modeling healthy relationships is instrumental
What can you do after you learn an assault has occurred:
- Show concern and reassure them that they are not alone
- Seek medical attention, if needed
- Avoid blaming
- Listen, don’t judge.
- If a teen believes you will listen and not yell or punish they will be more willing to be honest and open.
- Create a safety plan if they will see the perpetrator again or remain involved with them
- Reassure him or her of your love and concern for them
- Utilize available help hotlines
- Obtain counseling services for your teen
A wide range of emotions commonly occur for the person assaulted and their loved ones after an incident and disclosure. A teen having a safe and therapeutic setting to discuss their strong emotional pain, thoughts and experiences is important to help a teenager move forward. A psychologist is able to guide and support a teenager and their family to decrease their level of distress that may be occurring as a result of an assault.
If at any time you feel that you or your teen is in immediate danger, call 911.
New York State Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotlines
National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-SAFE (7233) www.ndvh.org
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Hotline
800-656-HOPE (4673) www.rainn.org
Resources used for this blog:
*Vagi, K. J., Olsen, E. O., Basile, K. C., & Vivolo-Kantor, A. M. (2015). Teen dating violence (physical and sexual) among US high school students: Findings from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey. JAMA Pediatrics, 169, 474-482.
National Center for Victims of Crime http://www.ncvc.org/
Written by Erica David, PsyD