MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, an effort to prevent violent relationships, and a wake-up call for teenagers and their parents about dating violence among young people.
“Twenty percent of high school students are reporting being abused by their dating partner,” said Wendy Fuller, senior prevention educator with the Family Sunshine Center, about the issue that’s more common than many people think. “And 43% of high school students who have been abused never report it to anyone.”
About 1.5 million high school students in the United States experience physical abuse from someone they're dating, according to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project. A group called "Love is Respect" reports that 1 in 3 teenagers in the U.S. will experience either physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by the other person in their romantic relationship.
“It usually stars with emotional and psychological abuse, name calling and put downs,” Fuller explained. “The abuser making the victim seek like they’re less than and that their worthless. They often will tell them that no one else would want them. And over time the victim really begins to believe that.”
And here’s another part of the issue, about 25 percent of parents don’t talk to their teens about domestic violence.
“Use teachable moments,” Fuller suggested. “Watch the shows that your children are watching. When you see something happening in the public or in the community, talk about it. Take those opportunities to tal about what happened, what would be a Beyer solution to those situations, and really what a healthy relationship should be.”
Fuller went on to say, “Also, we need to model that for our children and if we mess up, we need to talk about that and what would have been a better way to handle that situation. “
Congress declared the month of February to be National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in 2010. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is a national effort to raise awareness, to start the conversation, to break the cycle, and highlight where there is help.
“We really want to educate the public to look for the signs,” said Fuller. “A lot of teen relationships happen online, so we need to look for signs of stress when they’re getting constant text messages or constant phone calls, or when they appear to be upset or withdrawing from their friends, or when they stop socializing or doing activities they would normally do.”
The Family Sunshine Center offers help for victims of abuse, and prevention programming. The 24 hour crisis hotline is (334) 263-0218 or (800) 650-6522