February is best known as the month we celebrate love.

But it’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a time to recognize the potentially dark side of young relationships and promote positive solutions.

One in four adolescents report they have been the victim of verbal, emotional, physical or sexual violence. One in five girls and one in 10 boys in high school report they have been the victim of physical or sexual violence, according to a 2018 survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And nearly half (43%) of college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

What exactly is Teen Dating Violence?

According to the CDC it is:

  • Physical violence – when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence – forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.
  • Psychological aggression – the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over another person.
  • Stalking – a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.

The CDC adds to the list violence that can take place “electronically,” through texting or sharing photos without the subject’s consent.

The consequences of dating violence are real: Teens can suffer from anxiety or depression, engage in unhealthy behaviors (drinking, tobacco use) or have thoughts of suicide.

The Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (#2020TDVAM or #1thing) campaign focuses on empowering parents to teach their children how to build healthy relationships.

Fathers are too often overlooked as a vital resource in addressing teen dating violence, no matter the child’s gender. Studies have shown that fathers being present as a positive role model can have profound effects on children.

Pre-teen boys especially need appropriate modeling behavior before they enter the dating arena. But so too for girls who need guidance, awareness and self-confidence as they begin to navigate the murky waters of intimate relationships.

Father-child interaction promotes a child’s physical well-being, perceptual ability and competency for relating with others, writes the healthy families nonprofit, First Things First – exactly what a child entering adolescence needs to avoid being a victim of teen dating violence.

DAD PRO TIP

Some ways you can be the best father for your child when it comes to addressing teen dating violence:

  • BE A ROLE MODEL! How you act toward women will greatly influence both how your son acts toward women and the norms your daughter develops about the men in her life. Treat women with respect and dignity in all ways and at all times.
  • Be supportive of your children to help build up their self-esteem and self-confidence.
  • Educate yourself on dating abuse.
  • Talk about boundaries in every relationship.
  • Educate children on how to achieve healthy relationships.

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