Teen Dating Violence
by Robin Schmitt
In the sleepy town of Friday Harbor, in Washington, at a seemingly innocent teen-get-together party, a 15-year-old girl was playing a “drinking game” with friends. After seven shots of vodka and falling into a state of extreme intoxication, she found herself being sexually accosted and raped by one of the minor-age boys at the party. She was an acquaintance of the boy. Another girl was sexually molested, as well, after becoming intoxicated. Late last year the boy was found guilty of sexual molestation and rape.
Dating violence, relationship violence and date rape bring to mind scenarios that both teens and parents consider one of their worst nightmares.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors reported statistics of teens who have been abused, shows that 8% of eighth and ninth grade students had reported being victims of sexual dating violence, and 25% reported being victims of non-sexual dating violence. The statistics are similar for high school students.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines dating violence as the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship. It is highly likely that you, your teens or someone you know has been a victim of dating violence. This can be in the context of casual dating or serious long-term relationships. Dating violence can take the form of both physical or sexual abuse.
According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, dating physical abuse includes hitting, slapping, punching, shoving, kicking, biting and hair pulling. It also includes the use of a weapon such as a club, knife or a gun.
Dating sexual abuse refers to forced or unwanted sexual activity or rape. It is also considered sexual abuse to coerce or pressure someone to engage in sexual activity or to try to engage in sexual activity with someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Teenage girls suffer more from relationship violence than teen boys. They are more likely than teenage boys to have serious injuries, and are generally much more concerned about their personal safety. A study conducted by the Girl Scout Research Institute in November, 2003 surveying 2,300 teen girls found that 24% feared being raped. 26% were worried about being kidnapped, and 28% reported fear of somebody attacking them with a weapon.
Their worry is not unwarranted. According to the July, 2000 National Institute of Justice report Violence Against Women Survey, which includes teens, one out of four U.S. women have been physically assaulted or raped by an intimate partner at some point in their life. Earlier national studies conducted on college students, such as the Scope of Rape report, and Courtship Violence report indicate that more than 27% of U.S. college students surveyed said they had suffered rape or attempted rape at least once since age 14.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention June 2000 report entitled Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Summaries, outlines the following warning signs for teens to avoid dating violence and dating sexual abuse:
1. Pressure from your boyfriend of girlfriend, soon after you begin dating, to make the relationship very serious, or have sex.
2. Extremely jealous or possessive behavior from your boyfriend or girlfriend.
3. Your boyfriend or girlfriend tries to control you and make all the decisions, refusing to take your views or desires seriously on matters that involve you both.
4. Verbal abuse by your boyfriend or girlfriend by yelling, swearing, manipulating you, or spreading false and degrading rumors about you.
5. Your boyfriend or girlfriend threatens physical violence.
6. Use of alcohol or drugs by your boyfriend or girlfriend.
7. Use of violence with a prior boyfriend or girlfriend.
Teens are not usually forthcoming in situations of abuse. Most victims are reluctant to tell anyone, frequently because of fear of reprisal from the abuser. How would you know if your teen was involved in an abusive relationship? Although none of the following indicators are definitive, they are warning signs that your youth could be involved in an abusive situation.
- Physical signs that they have been injured or abused in some way.
- Covering up, hiding or not being open about injuries.
- Noticeable change in your teen’s style of clothing or makeup.
- Recent loss of self-confidence in themselves.
- Increased difficulty making decisions.
- They stop spending time with you or other friends.
- Failing grades or not showing up for classes.
- Your teen turns to using alcohol or drugs.
How do you teach your kids to not get caught up in this kind of trap? Talking to them is one thing, but what about formal training, does any exist? A close look will show there are very few programs available. One of the most effective is put on by Front Sight Resorts.
Front Sight has mastered the art of presenting courses for teens that are extremely successful in teaching how to spot, deter and deal with criminal and personal safety issues that they would potentially have to confront, including dating violence. They call the program Youth Achievement, and it is not only interesting and engaging for teens, it is also incredibly effective in getting them trained to deal with criminal situations where their lives could be threatened.
“These courses are filled with interesting and thought-provoking discussions, group activities, demonstrations and role playing, to help your teens understand how to spot, evade and deal with potential and real criminal advances to their well-being.” Says Dr. Ignatius Piazza, Founder and Director of Front Sight Resorts.
“Teens learn how to identify predators, and avoid putting themselves in dangerous situations. Teens also learn how to resist peer pressure, as it relates to drugs, alcohol, unethical activities and other dangers they face today.” Says Dr. Piazza.
All of Front Sight’s Youth Achievement instructors have a tremendous amount of experience working with youths on personal safety and self defense training. The courses successfully empower teens without any fear tactics. They leave the program with newfound ability and confidence, not fear or paranoia as is the case so frequently with other programs. And judging by reviews, Front Sight’s training is well received by parents.
“What Dr. Piazza has begun at Front Sight is so desperately needed throughout this country.” Says Gary Minner, who recently brought his three children ages 12, 14 and 17 to Front Sight for the Youth Achievement course. “These courses have helped with the safety of my children, teaching that may possibly save their life some day.”
To find out more about Front Sight Resorts Youth Safety Courses call 800-987-7719; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit their web site at www.frontsight.com.