Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Teens often think some behaviors, such as teasing and name calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship. However, these behaviors can become abusive and develop into more serious forms of violence.
Teen dating violence is an issue that is gaining more and more attention. It occurs between two young people who are, or who were once in, a dating relationship and can include any physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence, including stalking. It can also occur in-person or electronically.
While we often hear of the physical and/or emotional abuse that occurs in unhealthy dating relationships, sexual abuse and assault are becoming more common among teens across the nation in both high school and college.
Here are the facts:
- Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.
- 58% of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12-24
- Half of the reported date rapes occur among teenagers.
- 45% of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into either intercourse or oral sex with a partner.
- 57% of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a dating relationship.
- 33% of teens have actually witnessed some form of teen dating violence.
So, what exactly is sexual assault?
Sexual assault is any sexual contact or activity with a person that occurs without his or her consent. In order for individuals to engage in sexual activity of any type with each other, there must be clear consent. In other words, if you want to have sex with somebody, you have to get his or her permission.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well…
In truth, there can be a lot of ambiguity surrounding what is meant by “consent” and cutting corners on consent can land you in some very hot water! So it is important that youth who choose to engage in sexual behavior verbally communicate their intentions and consent as clearly as possible.
I may be at risk. How can I know for sure?
Dating violence looks different for teens than for adults, as teens often lack access to information and support, face unique societal pressures, and have limited experience in dating and sexual activity. While there are many warning signs of teen dating violence, sexual abuse and assault may look a little different. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my partner engage in sexual activity or behave in a way that makes me feel harassed, intimidated, or afraid?
- Does my partner force me to participate in sexual acts against my will?
- Does my partner take sexual pictures or have sexual pictures of me and share them with others?
- Does my partner threaten to do any of the above?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you are in a dangerous sexual relationship. Get out and seek help immediately!
I think I’m in a violent relationship! Who can help me?
Good news! There are a number of resources out there to help! Don’t be afraid to tell a friend or family member. Reach out to a professional such as a teacher, guidance counselor, school nurse, or social worker. Contact your local clergy member or pastor.
There are also a variety of phone numbers and victim service centers available, as well as online pamphlets and websites you can use! Share them with your friends, look at them together, or simply pass them on.
If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual assault or violence, please seek help!
Love is Respect
Chat at www.loveisrespect.org
Text loveis to 22522
The National Domestic Violence Hotline