Kendra Massey is education and outreach supervisor at Women Helping Women.
One case of dating violence is too many.
Yet research indicates that one in three adolescents in the U.S. experiences abuse from a dating partner. It’s vital to empower our young people to recognize healthy and unhealthy relationships and understand ways we can support the youth in our lives.
Women Helping Women’s dating violence prevention program arms young people with the knowledge and tools needed to recognize red flags or warning signs in relationships – in their own and in the relationships of friends. We teach youth what they can do to prevent dating violence in their communities as well as resources available when violence does occur.
One message we give youth is the importance of modeling healthy relationships by respecting their partner’s feelings and wishes in a relationship, paying attention to their body language, and stopping any physical advances if their partner says no or is unsure.
We teach youth that they can influence the way that their friends treat their dating partners as a method to prevent abuse. This can be done by telling a friend very clearly that abusive behavior is unacceptable and not making light of inappropriate behavior.
Sometimes youth don’t feel comfortable or safe handling a situation alone, so we encourage them to involve others when needed. They can alert staff at their school, call the police if they witness violence, or talk to a parent, teacher or other adult for advice.
Most importantly, we teach the importance of being able to talk about dating violence – whether it’s to parents, friends or someone they trust. It’s a difficult topic to discuss, so it’s vital that we all, as community members, take time to listen when youth come to us for support. We also have a responsibility to initiate conversations about dating with the teens in our lives.
It’s necessary that we recognize some red flags associated with an unhealthy relationship, including controlling behavior, threats of suicide or self-harm from a dating partner, extreme jealousy, put-downs and isolation from loved ones.
Common barriers to teens getting help include fear that others won’t understand, not knowing where to get help and fear of being judged. Therefore, it’s important when offering support that we listen without judgment, believe what is said, and offer information on resources such as Women Helping Women’s anonymous hotline.
It’s up to each of us to arm our young people with the knowledge they need to navigate relationships while they’re young. It’s up to us to get involved as a community to prevent dating violence and abusive behavior in all its forms.
If you know would like more support on how to talk with the youth in your life about healthy relationships or would like more information about Women Helping Women’s education and prevention programs, please give us a call at (513) 381-5610.