Almost one-third of teen relationships involve abuse. Help students learn to avoid—or break free from—unhealthy entanglements.
According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, dating violence is controlling, abusive and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It can happen in straight or gay relationships. It can include verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, or a combination of them. You may want to share with students the following examples of dating violence:
Controlling behavior includes:
- Not letting them hang out with their friends
- Calling or texting frequently to find out where they are, whom they’re with and what they’re doing
- Telling them what to wear
- Having to be with them all the time
Verbal and emotional abuse includes:
- Belittling them (cutting them down)
- Threatening to hurt them, someone in their family or themselves if they don't do what they want
Physical abuse includes:
Sexual abuse includes:
- Unwanted touching and kissing
- Forcing them to have sex
- Not letting them use birth control
- Forcing them to do other sexual things
Anyone can be a victim of dating violence. Both boys and girls are victims, but boys and girls abuse their partners in different ways. Girls are more likely to yell, threaten to hurt themselves and pinch, slap, scratch or kick. Boys injure girls more, are more likely to punch their partner and are more likely to force them to participate in unwanted sexual activity. Some teen victims experience violence occasionally. Others are abused more often, sometimes daily.
According to BreaktheCycle.org, nearly half of students who experience dating violence say some of the abuse took place on school grounds. Studies indicate that teen victims of dating violence:
- Have higher rates of truancy, more negative contact with their teachers and increased conflict with other students
- Are substantially more likely than classmates to bring guns or weapons to schools
- Are three times as likely to be involved in physical fights
As an educator, you have likely seen the effects of dating abuse on some of your students. Your daily contact with students puts you in the unique position of seeing how controlling, jealous or violent relationships can hinder a student's ability to learn.
What Educators Can Do
While schools are especially affected by dating violence, they also provide a rich setting for proactively addressing abuse. You can make your school safer by implementing a policy against abuse, training staff and educating students. Here are some ideas:
Few schools have written policies that meet the needs of youth experiencing dating violence. A comprehensive policy should include specific guidelines for:
- Responding to complaints of dating violence
- Involving campus police and law enforcement
- Providing services and accommodations for victims
- Enacting appropriate consequences for abusive students
- Referring students to community-based organizations
To build a safe school environment, all staff should feel confident in responding to dating violence appropriately. Teachers, faculty, coaches, counselors, campus police and other school personnel can all benefit from regularly scheduled training about abuse. Groups such as BreaktheCycle.org have training programs in place.
Working with all students to prevent dating violence is a crucial part of creating a safe campus. Schools should actively work toward raising student awareness about:
- Dating abuse
- Resources for help
- Healthy relationships
- Teens' legal responsibilities
- Students' rights to safety on campus
Around the Web
Dating Matters offers a free online course for educators and school personnel featuring interviews with experts and interactive exercises to prevent dating violence.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Choose Respect Playbook” has four different zones designed to help teens, caregivers, community organizations and policy makers combat dating violence. The Teen Zone includes several hands-on, age-appropriate activities in which teens can learn more and help to stop dating violence. Activities include songwriting, journal writing, games, role-playing and writing personal ads for healthy relationships.
Educators can learn about teen dating abuse and download programs to prevent and address it at these websites:
These websites may help students facing dating abuse or seeking more information on the issue: