February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This year’s theme is #1 Thing (Hashtag One Thing)- to learn one thing about teen dating violence and educate others about it by passing it along.
“Dating Violence Awareness Month is just a month designated to raising awareness of signs of things people can do to look for potential signs in their teens of possible issues with dating violence,” said Amy Blackburn, director of prevention education at Crime Victim Center of Erie County.
Social media is used by teens and adults alike. It is easy to see how teen dating violence can be taken from the real world to the virtual one.
You’ll also often hear the word “toxic” used in place of violent. But don’t think the harm is any less.
“I think you just become way more isolated. Like, I’ve definitely noticed people… they’re more secluded by themselves because of whatever happened on social media. Definitely in the school, you know when somebody gets into a more toxic relationship because they don’t hang out with their friends as much anymore, and that stems from social media, like, always being on their phone. If they’re not around, or, like toxic messages through, like, FaceTime, stuff like that, ” said Caroline Krause, senior at Fairview High School.
“Yeah, it’s so easy to like have trust issues and stuff, too, nowadays, you know. And it’s so easy to say such hurtful things because people hide behind a screen,” said Courtney Rhoades, junior at Fairview High School.
Teen dating violence is more than just bullying. It’s a serious issue.
Blackburn says unhealthy relationships have signs including many things like power and control.
Fairview junior, Michael Litzinger, says it’s easier to have miscommunication via text and social media compared to physical words and interactions.
“I feel like it is much easier on social media to kind of be aggressive with that stuff because you are hiding behind the screen and it’s hard to feel someone through that screen,” said Litzinger.
Teen dating violence isn’t always easy to spot. It can be hard for teens to open up to adults because dating today is so different compared to even 10 years ago.
Krause says older generations don’t really understand because you can’t see the bruises teens get in violent dating situations today compared to what they might traditionally think of as violence. “It’s something that’s way more emotional and hidden.”
“Yeah, definitely. It’s very hidden. That’s the main key. ‘Cause most people don’t know,” said Rhoades.
“That’s why kids are afraid to go and talk because they don’t want to it to go around and they don’t want kids to be like, ‘Oh she had to go and talk to a counselor about her relationship.’ I mean it’s all kind of like you want the reputation that you’re happy, that you’are living a good life. And so for you to go to a counselor, it’s kind of like kids are scared to because they just don’t want people to know that they’re having issues,” said Fairview junior, William Postema.
The best way to end teen dating violence is to educate students young to break the cycle.
“These behaviors can start very young. People who’ve experienced unhealthy relationships and start to view them as a norm, are more likely to end up in abusive relationships, or people who are abusers or who are controllers who have not had that behavior confronted will continue that behavior as well,” said Blackburn.
Litzinger noted that schools should be teaching about dating violence earlier, too.
“I wish when we were freshman or earlier than that, maybe like seventh grade cause I feel like seventh grade was kinda the time that people actually started dating for Fairview at least… And I feel like having those kind of talks and courses, ’cause we never really got into, like, dating violence we only got into like regular violence or drugs and stuff like, yeah, physical abuse. So but I wish we would have had, like, a course that talks about the what to do if you’re in these kind of situations. Like what’s morally right and wrong if you have something like this going on in your life and the ways to fix or who to go to or who to talk to,” said Litzinger.