Teen Dating Violence

Dating and teenagers and violence… From attacks by strangers to date rape, there is a whole lot to navigate these days. ‘Interpersonal violence’ is on the rise. (That’s a fancy name for teen dating violence.)

We have 24/7 access to all sorts of media, streaming, YouTube, videos, TV, and even porn.

Pornography is more accessible than ever before, and often shows women who seem to enjoy being slapped around or treated in other violent, and degrading ways. The porn myth implies that women actually like to be treated violently—and even get turned—which is not true.

There are Ted Talks about women who have had to train their younger lovers who grew up on recent porn that it is not okay to treat women violently, that it is a myth that they find it a turn-on.

Sex and violence sell

Our culture uses sex to sell sports, clothes, beer, sandwiches—even socks. We see sexual images, often paired with violence, everywhere. As one top fashion designer said to me about fashion’s advertising: “Well, everything is so fragmented now. We’d rather make a bad impression than no impression.”

So the impression is that violence is okay, and even sexy. Our mainstream movies show scenes of girls getting wasted and not being able to give consent as acceptable, and even funny.

We tell teens to wait, to be responsible… but we’re showing—and doing—something else.

And here’s the deal. Physical violence, like hitting or slapping, is actually easier to define and recognize because it’s more cut and dried.

Emotional abuse is much trickier. Whether a teen grew up in an abusive family or not, emotional abuse can be confusing. It’s easy to discount. It’s easy to second guess yourself.

There are subtle ways to emotionally undermine another person. There are ways to find the insecure buttons and to push and push on them.

There’s a term I learned in Alanon called gas- lighting. It’s when the abuser keeps making the other person smaller and smaller. It happened to me when I was growing up. I had a boyfriend who wouldn’t let me talk about other topics or friends or events. It was subtle, but he became more and more controlling.

What to do about teen dating violence?

Predators don’t walk around with a ‘P’ on their foreheads. They can be a stranger on the subway, or someone you thought was a friend. Predators prey on the inexperienced, the nervous, the head-in-the-clouds dreamers.

Trust your gut. Take a pause before saying yes to…the ride home, the party invite, or whatever else. Carry a keychain with pepper spray, a whistle, and/or a really strong flashlight that can be used to blind or disorient your attacker. Tell others where you are going, and when you expect to return.

Above all, be alert and aware of your surroundings.