Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: Unhealthy Relationships

The innocence of childhood romance with its fantastically high expectations can lead a teenager to misconstrue reality and suffer from devastating effects when the romance cools off. Most, if not all of these relationships, end on a positive note even serving as chances for learning life skills like managing intense emotions, negotiating heated disagreements and dealing with heartbreak, pain and loss.

However, the precocious relationships can take an ugly turn if it includes physical, emotional, psychological or sexual misbehavior. The adage “You are the company you keep” applies very well to Teen Dating Violence (TDV), which is on the rise. In adolescence and young adulthood, friendships and peer connections play a pivotal part in overall development. However, staying in the company of those who indulge in delinquent activities increases susceptibility to TDV victimization and perpetration.

As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by the people around them and their relationships. Healthy relationship behaviors can have a positive effect on their emotional development. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have short- and long-term negative effects on a teen’s mental health. The person who inflicts violence may be suffering from a mental illness such as depression or substance use disorder and has uncontrolled emotions. The victim too can develop a mental illness due to prolonged exposure to physical and verbal attack, unrealistic demands and unfulfilled desires.

Teenagers are particularly attentive to what they hear about the so called “relational behavior” from peers and adults around them and quickly absorb information available on social media. Often, the definition of what constitutes rational behavior and what the male-dominated society construes about a healthy relationship may suggest that violence in a relationship is normal. Growing up in an environment being a witness to maltreatment by or between adults can instill a feeling of complacency about imitating the wrong action in the young mind.

Teens are at greater risk of having unhealthy relationships when they:

  • Believe that dating violence is the norm
  • Suffer from depression, anxiety and symptoms of trauma
  • Show aggressive tendencies/behaviors
  • Use illegal substances
  • Engage in early sexual activity and promiscuity
  • Have friends involved in dating violence
  • Have fights with a partner
  • Experience domestic violence

Effective coping mechanisms to prevent dating violence

Nationwide, the month of February is dedicated to advocating awareness about teen dating violence to prevent abuse and support victims. Dating violence can have a debilitating effect on overall health. Consequences linked to TDV include, but are not limited to, mental illnesses, substance abuse (cigarette, tobacco, drugs and alcohol), antisocial behaviors, unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and poor academic performance. Additionally, victims of dating violence are prone to victimization during college years. In the long run, TDV can result in decreased self-esteem, eating disorders and suicidal tendencies.

The majority of the adolescents outlive TDV as they learn coping skills and more matured ways of expressing their feelings. Personal growth in a positive socio-economic environment, the company of good friends and support from loved ones boost a teenager’s self-confidence and limits their chances of being a victim of relationship violence. Awareness about the damage that TDV can cause to good relationships and the realization of serious consequences such as arrests deter many from indulging in such acts.

Seek timely help in case of mental illness

Dating violence can be prevented when teenagers, families, organizations and communities join hands to bring about effective prevention and remedial measures. Strategies such as school-based awareness programs, counseling on how to handle stress, and trainings for parents and caregivers to inculcate positive thoughts in youth help teenagers foster healthy relationships. During the preteen and teen years, as young people are imbibing learning and coping skills, they must be taught to identify the risks of violence and when to raise their voice.

If you know someone who is struggling in an abusive relationship and going through stress, depression or an anxiety disorder, contact the California Mental Health Helpline to get details about the mental health centers in California that provide holistic treatment for mental illnesses. You can call our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online with experts to know about state-of-the-art psychological rehabilitation centers in California.

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