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“Please Talk to Me” signed, your angry teenager

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Teenagers can be scary. The children who used to giggle when you made a funny face and cry when you left the room have been replaced by teenagers immersed in technology you barely understand and scowl when interrupted.  It seems that simple questions like, “what would you like for dinner” are met with eye-rolls, heavy sighs, and sarcastic responses.  It usually feels like there is no good way to say anything to teenagers without negative responses.

It’s easy to take the path of least resistance and hope this phase will just go away, and the good news is, it probably will. However, teenagers can often find themselves in situations they aren’t properly equipped to deal with and the last thing they are going to do is talk to their parents about their problems, especially when it comes to relationships. There are typical relationship struggles every person must figure out, asking someone on a date to breaking up without anyone getting hurt, but sometimes the questions are more serious.

It is startling that almost half of people who experience intimate partner violence do so between the ages of 16-24. Unfortunately, teenagers are the most vulnerable to dating violence because they are learning the dynamics of being in a relationship.  If a teenager’s first experience is that of physical violence, or, more frequent, being with a controlling person who humiliates them, exerts power of them, or sexually coerces them, it can have devastating, life-long effects. Since teenagers have perfected the art of repelling any adult who could offer advice or a shoulder to cry on, they turn to their friends or frantically search for answers on Google, leaving them more vulnerable and alone. Often, parents are the last to know when their teenager is experiencing relationship difficulties, especially teen dating violence.

Fortunately, you can help. Teenagers can be scary, but they want to have conversations with you about relationships. Of course, they would never say that or even act like they are listening, but they are. Research proves the importance of educating youth early on healthy relationships through programs at school, community groups, and, most importantly, at home.

The Domestic Violence Network of Central Indiana offers free workshops for schools, faith groups, community organizations, and businesses who would like to learn more about teen dating violence and sexual assault. There are a variety of workshops available for youth about healthy relationships and for adults on communicating with teenager about healthy relationships. If you would like to schedule a workshop for your organization, please contact Chris Warren at the Domestic Violence Network of Central Indiana, cwarren@dvnconnect.org or call at 317-872-1086.