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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Professionals highlight effects of teen dating violence

by Airman 1st Class Shawna L. Keyes
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs


3/3/2014 - Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. -- As National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month draws to a close, professionals urge both parents and communities alike to educate young men and women to identify characteristics of an abusive individual and how to avoid ending up in an unhealthy relationship.

"Violence in teen relationships occurs more often than most parents or teens realize," said Jerome Ellis, 4th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy outreach manager. "Parents should keep lines of communication open between themselves and their teen. Most teenagers want to talk to their parents about the issue, but are fearful of being ridiculed for the choices they made."

A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 states approximately 9 percent of high school students reported being physically wounded by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The CDC defines teen violence as the physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within a dating relationship. It can occur in person or electronically and may occur between a current or former dating partner.

Some identifiers that a teen may be in an abusive relationship are:

· Constantly canceling plans for reasons that don't sound true
· Always worrying about angering their boyfriend or girlfriend
· Giving up activities important to them as well as becoming isolated from family and friends
· Showing signs of physical abuse, like bruises or cuts, and having a boyfriend or girlfriend that wants them to be available all the time
· Feeling pressured to have sex or feeling like a sex object

It's not enough to know the signs of a victim, Ellis said. There are also signs that someone is the abuser:

· Insulting his or her significant other in public or acting jealous if his or her boyfriend or girlfriend talks to others
· Checking in on their partner constantly
· Blowing disagreements out of proportion, threatening to breakup, or constantly worrying or accusing that the other will break up with them
· Hitting or breaking things to intimidate their partner
· Blaming others for their own problems
· Abusing drugs and/or alcohol

Ellis explains knowing the warning signs of an abusive person and speaking with someone about what is acceptable and what is not in a relationship is a good first step in prevention.

The CDC states that dating violence can have a negative effect on health throughout life; not just while in the relationship. Teens who are victims are more likely to be depressed and do poorly in school. They may engage in unhealthy behaviors like abusing drugs and alcohol or developing mental illnesses.

"There can also be long-term effects on the abuser as well as the victim," said Ellis. "The abuser may get what he or she wants in the short term but may alienate their family and friends, get expelled from school and lose a job. Abusers create patterns of behavior for themselves which puts them at risk for ruining future relationships."

Ellis stressed the negative effects of an unhealthy or violent relationship can remain with not only the people directly involved, but entire families for many years down the line.

"Dating violence is indiscriminate of race, gender and other socioeconomic factors," he said. "Dating violence affects everyone: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends."

For more information, contact chaplain services, the mental health office, or family advocacy. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is also available at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

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