I wish the days of going for a “milk shake” were the limits of dating for today’s teens but it is a far cry from true. This article I am posting for several reasons. First and foremost, it could save your child’s life (literally) and second, to reaffirm that TEEN DATING VIOLENCE is a REAL issue that you need to be aware of. This article will highlight some of the very real and scary statistics plus explain to you some things that you can do (and look for) to prevent this from happening to your family. After all, when something happens to your child it affects YOU equally as much.
I crossed many boundaries in my years of (what should have been) “innocent” dating and they caused me both physical and emotional pain. These things transpired partly because of lack of guidance and also because of my own inexperience. Remember, while teens are growing up and becoming young adults, there is still a very real part of them that is “immature” and literally screaming for guidance, ESPECIALLY in the crucial area of TEEN DATING.
First, let me tell you a small bit of my story and why this topic is so very important to me. I will then cover the statistics and what you can do to prevent this abuse and protect your teen. As a teen girl I was encouraged to date before I should have been able to. I was told WAY too much about what you “should do” to get (and keep) a boy and this misinformation left me struggling for years and the repercussions were tremendous.
I literally suffered physical abuse, emotional abuse and lasting heartache as a result. Let me explain. At 14 years old I lost my Virginity to a boy 3 years my senior. I was encouraged to do so and with the loss of this innocence came a tremendous weight that I would carry for years. Lines were blurred and boundaries were crossed. I strongly believe that this opened the door for me to date boys that would later abuse me in a bad way.
Let me explain, I had no boundaries in dating and I began to date boys that did not value me. After all, I was not taught to value my own innocence. I was allowed to go on dates at a boy’s house (many times) and while most would think this is “safe” I believe otherwise. This is where MANY things can happen including physical intimacy, abuse and boundaries being crossed. Remember, unless you fully know and trust the parents, you are leaving your child to another persons set of rules and guidelines and this is not always favorable or what you may expect.
I was fortunate for the first few serious boyfriends to have no abuse but at 17 years old, I found out I was pregnant (while I was in Foster Care) the precise reason I said “lasting heartache” because giving up my daughter (for adoption) was the HARDEST thing I could do and I was left to face adult decisions not having a clue. At a time in my life when I should have been focused on college, my life and my goals/dreams I was left pregnant, scared, unsure of what to do and overall terrified. While my Daughter was a true gift from God (and a large part of my motivation in life) I still had to face the consequences of having zero dating boundaries. While her Father never abused me, I still had the warped perception of what “dating” and relationships were supposed to be like. I was left to face a 9 month pregnancy scared and alone. This was just one effect of my warped dating experience.
I couldn’t take the heartache or pain after the birth of my daughter and felt like it was time to move on. I left her father pretty quickly and bought the lies of the next boy that came along. Hurting, alone and unsure of anything, I started dating him. He seemed like Prince Charming at first. I took his extreme jealousy as a sign of genuine interest in me instead of a sign. What happened next was five years of being tied up in what became an extremely toxic and abusive relationship. I hid this out of fear and I took the verbal and physical beatings in silence. Sadly, this is very common and scary. You will be amazed at what a person will hide out of fear. He would hit me everywhere but my face and call me detesting names that I would not repeat ever again. He threatened to kill me (and told me HOW) if I ever left him. I believed him too. After all, the daily beatings and verbal abuse made me feel like he wasn’t kidding. I began to just sink into this depressive state and wanted to die. Fortunately for me, by the grace of God, I was able to get out. I just got so tired of the abuse, name calling and threats that I came to the decision I would rather die (and I meant it!!) than to live another day with this guy. I flipped a coin and took my chances, thoroughly terrified of what was going to happen next.
I praise God that He protected me during this time and I thank God that my boyfriend ended up being a big coward but sadly, some girls are not so fortunate and many pay with their lives.
Listen, my point is not to cause you to be fearful but AWARE. It is easy to let down your guard thinking you have a “good” kid who knows better but when it comes to this fragile time in life, they do NOT always know better and YOU are their parent and advocate.
Check out these statistics (credits to ABOUT.COM) They are jaw dropping and you NEED to be in the know. Please keep in mind, the time to start speaking to your child is between the ages of 11-14 when MANY of their perceptions on dating and morals/values are built. While this may seem young, it is not. We live in a world where our babies really are not babies anymore. Exposure is much greater and media is changing targeting our children younger and younger.
**Each year ONE out of every FOUR adolescents reports physical, verbal or sexual abuse while dating.
** One out of every five high school girls reports being physically abused or sexually abused while dating.
** Dating violence among their peers is reported by 54% of high school students
** 80% of teens believe verbal abuse is a serious issue for their age group!
**One in three teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been physically hurt by his or her partner through violent actions which included hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, and/or choking.
**Nearly 80% of girls who have been victims of physical abuse in their dating relationships continue to date the abuser. (THIS WAS ME!!)
**Nearly 20% of teen girls who have been in a relationship said that their boyfriend had threatened violence or self-harm in the event of a break-up. (AGAIN!)
** Nearly 70% of young women who have been raped knew their rapist; the perpetrator was or had been a boyfriend, friend, or casual acquaintance.
** The majority of teen dating abuse occurs in the home of one of the partners.
Now that you know some of the terrifying statistics, what can you do to help protect your child and prevent this from happening?
There is much that can be done. The first step is just what you are doing. Read and know that no matter how well your child behaves, this can still greatly affect them and it CAN happen. Acknowledging this and becoming an informed parent truly is step one.
WATCH YOUR CHILD ONLINE: We live in a world where social networking and online communication is taking the place of face to face conversation and interaction. Knowing what your child is doing online is KEY. My suggestion is to have passwords to their social networks and be open and clear with your child. Subject them to random checks to be sure everything checks out and is ok. While this doesn’t prevent everything, it surely doesn’t hurt to do so.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD: This is perhaps one of the MOST important things you can do. Help your child establish firm morals and values and know what to expect from a healthy dating relationship. Communicating openly with your child can prevent much of this. While they may not always “appear” to be listening, they are. This also helps them to establish trust and communicate openly with you as well.
DISCUSS THE DATE: If you are allowing your child to go on a date, consider going along or have them double date. It helps having someone else there for multiple reasons but above all safety. Discuss their hopes for the date and review their values/morals with them to be sure they are fresh in mind.
INSIST ON OUTSIDE DATES: Dating in public is much safer and in many cases can prevent much of the abuse that happens. Remember, MANY of the things that happen, happen in home. This can help to eliminate some of the boundaries from being crossed and can help to keep your child safe.
KNOW THE WARNING SIGNS: Parents, these are signs that I know all too well! These really are spot on. Read them, know them and keep them at the front of your mind. MAKE SURE your child knows these as well.
**Isolation from friends and family
**Blaming others for problems
**Threatening to hurt them during arguments.
**Getting extremely jealous for no reason (BIG TIME!)
**Acting cruel towards animals (many who are abusive exhibit this behavior!)
**Trying to control you by belittling your values or ideas.
Above all, the key is to care. I truly feel many people think this can’t happen to them and I am living proof that it CAN. Knowing where your child is, who they are with and helping them to establish strong morals, values and expectations can help make this experience a much safer one.
Please share this post. You never know who needs it or whose life it can save! Thank you for allowing me to share and if you have any questions or comments feel free to post.
Thank you and God Bless,