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Hands Unite: Do Your Part – Being Informed About Teen Dating Abuse

The theme for this year’s Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is Hands Unite: Do your Part. Everyone has a role to play in ensuring youth and young adults establish and maintain healthy relationships because an unhealthy or abusive relationship can have a long lasting impact on physical and mental health.

An alarming number of college-aged students aren’t aware of the signs or symptoms of dating violence. According to a 2011 study conducted by the Knowledge Network [add link], over 50 percent of college students say it’s difficult for them to identify dating violence. A more recent study [link] reported that 1.5 million high school boys and girls in the U.S. have been physically harmed by someone they were romantically involved with in the past year. And while 80 percent of parents felt they could recognize the signs their child was in an abusive relationship, less than half of them could correctly identify all of the warning signs of abuse.

As newcomers to the realm of dating and romantic relationships, teens and young adults can often be in the dark when trying to determine where the lines between a healthy and unhealthy relationship lay. The pressure to fit-in and become sexually active from peers and many types of media can add to the confusion, leaving many teens misinformed or confused.

Certain unhealthy behaviors can be viewed as “normal” elements of dating and relationships by some teens, and parents may be unaware of how to identify when their child is becoming involved in an unhealthy relationship. Parents also aren’t cognizant of their role in creating and reinforcing the characteristics of respectful relationships—both romantic and otherwise.

One of the best ways to help prevent teen dating violence is to make sure teens are equipped with appropriate expectations for relationships and the knowledge to recognize an unhealthy one. Break the Cycle is a great teen-specific resource to help educate young people on dating abuse, including the different types of abuse, warning signs and informational videos. Parents and caregivers can look to VAWnet for a full collection of resources on how to talk to children about dating and sexual violence and encouraging healthy decisions about relationships. Dating can be one of the most exciting parts of being a teenager and there are actions teen and adults can take to help ensure that those experiences are positive and safe.

If you have experienced sexual assault, help is always available. Visit Mississippi Coalition Against Sexual Assault or contact us at 888-987-9011 to find out about our services, ways to help survivors and information on any of the nine crisis centers across Mississippi.

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