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NEWS | Feb. 5, 2021

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

By Rachel Kersey 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and Joint Base San Antonio wants to bring awareness to teens experiencing physical, sexual, verbal, emotional and digital abuse from current or former partners.

“Millions of teens in the U.S. each year suffer from teen dating violence. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey indicate that nearly 1 in 11 female and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year,” said Tonya Lee, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph’s violence prevention integrator.

Nearly 10 percent of high school students report being abused by a partner within the past year, she added.

Additionally, about 1 in 9 female high school students and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual violence in the last year. The surveys show 26 percent of women and 15 percent of men who were victims of sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime reported experiencing it before the age of 18.

“Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can have severe consequences and short- and long-term negative effects on a developing teen,” Lee said. “Youth who are victims of teen dating violence are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety; engage in unhealthy behaviors like using tobacco, drugs and alcohol; antisocial behaviors like lying, theft, bullying or hitting; and consider suicide.”

Some tips Lee would pass along to parents of teens are:

  1. Define and model behaviors of healthy relationships.
  2. Describe the different types of abuse and their warning signs.
  3. Set expectations and boundaries for your teen’s dating behaviors.
  4. Offer support, understanding and patience to teens.
  5. Don’t make assumptions about your child’s partner or the nature of their relationship.
  6. Be respectful of your teen’s feelings, approachable and intentional about establishing an open line of communication.
  7. Know when to ask for outside help to solve a problem.

“It’s never too early to get the conversation about healthy relationships started,” Lee said. “Having open lines of communication around dating rules can help to make sure teens are on the same page. It is important that teens know adults are there for them. Many teens worry that adults won’t believe them or understand. It’s important to meet them with understanding and patience.”

For help with teen dating violence, Lee advised reaching out to school counselors, the Family Advocacy Program, the installation chaplain, the Military and Family Life Counselor, Military OneSource. Additional resources are available from organizations such as The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, Love is Respect, That’s Not Cool, the CDC and Futures without Violence.

“My passion has always been to support people and let them know they are not alone,” Lee said. “We need to ensure there is a consistent message to prevent all types of interpersonal and self-directed violence within all types of relationships.”