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Teen Dating Violence is more rampant than you thought

by Pooja Garg
February 2023
Teen Dating Violence is more rampant than you thought

As Asha joined her favorite college, she was ready for an exciting ride in her freshman year. Instead, she ended up getting sexually assaulted in a dating relationship that she had just begun and dropping out of college. Asha’s is far from an isolated case as 1 out of 12 adolescents experiences sexual or physical dating violence according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. The chances are higher with girls and members of the LGBTQ+ community. CDC notes that the consequences of this are serious for future relationships that these teens get involved in. 

February is Teen Violence Prevention Month. A media briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services aimed to focus on this taboo topic that needs urgent attention.  

Megan Tanahashi, Communication analyst, media advocate, and member of California Partnership to End Domestic Violence notes that prevention is key to both awareness and partnership as a whole. She states the example of a campaign that was started by the Partnership in 2021 by the youth advisory committee. The main audiences for the campaign are peers and the legislative. A value used in the campaign is called Passing the Mic that aims to amplify authentic messengers. Social media, the pandemic, and the political climate in the US have created a whole new environment that teens must face through today. The partnership gives youth the appropriate tools to navigate through a relationship. Mental health awareness is also a part of the budget of the partnership. Another example that she states is the Gay Stray Alliance Club that runs similar programs only for LGBTQ+ teens. These are all positive changes unlike the absence of such activism in the past even in metropolitan areas.

17-year-old Anna Kampos, a resident of Orange County, California, and a survivor of intimate partner violence, shared her views through a pre-recorded video. She had been in a toxic relationship, missed the red flags of a manipulative partner, and was blind to his mistreatment and violation of her basic rights. She highlighted that it is important for teens to get help from authentic sources at the right time. In the case of Anna, her sister came to the rescue creating a safe space where she could confide freely. She suggested that the reason for teen violence is their ignorance in a world of multimedia and movies that romanticize rape and promote pseudo-masochism in an already patriarchal society. Social media is equally misleading and does not give the full picture as people tend to post the best of their lives. She also noted that education regarding dating violence should be mandated at the school level. Her final suggestion was the train peers and encourage peer-to-peer talk that is more effective.

16-year-old Maya Henry is a member of a prevention center based in Los Angeles. She notes the defensive attitude that aware young girls have had to garner for self-protection. It is ingrained in them not to get attention from young men or never leave drinks unattended at a pub. This comes from the news clippings that show how drinks get spiked and young girls are raped every other day. There is no non-abusive love in textbooks, novels, or tv particularly surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. So, one does not even know what healthy relationships look like. She is a member of Spectrum Club for gendered people and notes how trauma can lead to more trauma giving way to gun violence, physical abuse, and partner violence. The key is to understand that violence is a cycle and not blame the one involved in violence but contextualize their violence, prevent snap judgment, and provide resources for improvement. She concludes by saying: “hurt people hurt people.”

A high school sophomore, Armaan Sharma is an Indian American who belongs to a community setup where dating is taboo. He gives the example of his recent visit to India made him learn that dating experiences were concealed by his cousins and love marriage is not considered a good choice in general. He believes that there needs to exist a healthy dialogue where parents create a safe space allowing teens to confide in them so that dating violence does not go unchecked and unreported. He gave the example of organizations like NARCA that are taking forward the cause for violence prevention but there needs to be more activism at school like the class called ‘Choices’ in his school. He notes that there is a misconception that relationships happen naturally and are not built which is contrary to the fact that healthy relationships are a process of continuous development.

Kandee Lewis reiterates that the dialogue around violence prevention needs to begin at home. She states that parents are concerned that if they talk about this then it will imply that they are encouraging dating among teens. Addressing negative behavior in and around a family will help to train peers to understand, analyze, and be advocates for the cause. They will relate and communicate with their peer groups better.  She also notes the shift in the urban, nuclear family setup where both parents are working 9 to 5 jobs due to inflation, financial disparity, and housing insecurity. So children may end up seeking help from non-parental adults who may not always be trustworthy.

Tanahashi added the need for sex education to end the cycle of violence. This was agreed upon by Lewis who added that sex education should be an aspect that DV initiatives look into but not the entire conversation itself. Sharma added that in case of abuse and resultant teen pregnancy, the decrease in abortion access will not allow teens to terminate pregnancies which will only perpetuate patriarchy as teens get stripped of their innocence and childhood.  

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