When it comes to parenting, there are those important topics typically addressed with children and teenagers. We all remember them well. But in the growing web of talks about alcohol, drugs, economy, self-responsibility, teen dating violence doesn’t usually make the list. Growing up, we remember the big topics like alcohol and drugs were easy to approach but conversations around dating were not. Most parents fumbled around searching for the right words when it came to dating, which we can mostly laugh about now!
You might be asking yourself, in this day and age where our society is raising strong independent women and self-assured sensitive men, how can it be possible that teen dating violence is still a problem? To start, the idea that strong-willed individuals couldn't possibly experience abuse or that victims are only exclusive to women are thoughts that still stand strong today. It’s still a problem because girls shouldn't walk home alone at night and boys will be boys. It’s still a problem because prevention efforts in school are a relatively new concept. It’s still a problem because victims are shamed for coming forward. Those stigmas are powerful, and many adults today feel like they know the issue without the education necessary to fully understand. When you break down the reality of this silent epidemic, you'll began to see why teen dating violence should be added to the list of must-have conversations with youth today.
When assessing whether your teen might be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, educating yourself on the issue is step one. Since February is Teen Dating Violence awareness month, what better time to do that then now? Teenagers don’t want to admit that they need you during this confusing time and will often result to peer advice to get them through. Some of us can remember what that looked like- “You can’t get pregnant in a hot tub.” Insert hand to forehead emoji.
Thankfully with numerous prevention programs scattered throughout the U.S., healthy relationships and knowing your rights has become the "in" thing. True story! And the numerous campaigns that spread the mission are full of shiny tactics that help make the movement comfortable and include challenging culture norms in media, taking a hard look at sexual consent, and tools equipped to intervene when someone witnesses abusive behaviors. A major barrier however is the ability for teenagers to assess at-risk behaviors before the abuse happens.
It's natural to feel angry or frustrated with the situation, but empowering your teen will ultimately be the key advantage in setting up your family for success. With prevention programs in schools on the rise, continuing efforts at home is crucial. Prevention efforts only have the capacity to get the ball rolling, and the trick is to understand how, as parents, you can continue the education at home. Prevention efforts, like the programs at Tahoe SAFE Alliance, include doing one presentation a year which simply isn’t going to cut it. National Public Radio published an article regarding the importance of starting these conversations earlier than you would expect- To Prevent Sexual Assault, Schools and Parents Start Lessons Early. As the word prevention implies, the idea is to stop teen dating violence before it happens. Apart from factors that we don’t have control over, there’s still an immense amount of room for growth in this area. Recognizing that the problem does happen in your community is a major step in the right direction. Feeling a little overwhelmed? Check out some of these online resources that will help boost your confidence and get the conversation started!
· joinonelove created fun animation skits that show what is healthy and unhealthy
· BecauseI Love You... is a very powerful PSA also put on by joinonelove.org that shows how charming abuse can be.
· WarningSigns- this excellent guide breaks down warning signs and even approaches whether your teen might be an abuser
Teen dating violence is not an after school special. Violence doesn’t only happen in the form of physical harm. It is often discreet, charming, and hidden behind some very powerful emotions that, when not understood, can appear to look like love. As a unified community we can make the difference. Tahoe SAFE Alliance Community Education and Prevention Program is present in nearly every school in the north Tahoe and Truckee area. To find out when we’ll be presenting at your children’s school and learn more about what we’re addressing, feel free to contact us directly and we’d love to share that information with you. Contact the Prevention Program Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 775-298-0010.
Tahoe SAFE Alliance
Tahoe SAFE Alliance