In a recent episode of a wildly popular television show about teens and young people, one of the young male characters verbally assaults his partner. The two shout at and berate one another, both struggling to feel heard and understood by the other. In prior episodes, viewers also witnessed that same leading male character physically abuse his former partner, further heightening the stakes on this argument with the new girl he is dating.
While write-ups and reviews of the show continually discount it as unrealistic or exaggerated, the reality is that 1 in 3 teens will experience physical, verbal, or emotional abuse from a dating partner before they reach adulthood. Dating violence is the very real and unexaggerated experience of many young people. To work towards the prevention of dating violence, before it starts, we must foster safe, non-judgmental spaces for the teens and adolescents in our lives to have constructive and supportive conversations, even on difficult topics.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, observed every February, aims to not only raise awareness of this prevalent and critical issue, but also to provide young people and adults alike with tangible skills and strategies for fostering safer communities through violence prevention. One of the best methods to work toward preventing violence before it happens is by having meaningful conversations with the young people in our lives about their safety and their rights.
Starting conversations about tough topics like dating violence isn’t always easy. If you want to talk to a young person in your life but aren’t sure where to start, try asking open-ended and strategic questions like:
“What do you look for in someone you want to date?”
“What do you like about the way your friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend treats your friend? What don’t you like?”
“What would you do if you thought a friend might be in an unhealthy relationship?” and
“What dating red flags do you already know about?”
Try to stay non-judgmental and open to their responses and center their safety as your primary concern. If you are concerned the young person in your life may be in an unhealthy, or even abusive relationship, try to discuss the behavior you’re observing, as opposed to negatively discussing the person in their lives. Most importantly, continue to reinforce that you are a safe space they can come to with questions and concerns. You don’t have to know everything! Just starting the conversation is the most important step.
In line with the 2022 Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month theme, Talk About It, we at YWCA York are offering support and guidance for those who live and work with teens and young adults. We have hosted virtual and in-person events and continue to offer trainings to any groups of adults that would like to learn helpful strategies for preventing and recognizing teen dating violence. We also offer presentations and workshops to young people throughout the county to help them learn the warning signs and where to get help if they, or their friends, experience dating violence.
Follow along with YWCA York on social media, as we often post tips or articles learn more about providing support for the young people in your life. If you are interested in bringing an educational program to your workplace or group, please reach out to Lindy Keefe, YWCA York Prevention Educator, at LKeefe@ywcayork.org. For more information on YWCA York services and offerings, please visit https://www.ywcayork.org.
If you or someone you know is concerned about an unhealthy or abusive relationship, call YWCA York’s free, confidential, 24/7 hotline at 1-800-262-8444.