Teen dating violence is more common than thought

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Erin McClellan
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
It’s important to protect people from violence, which is why February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Teen dating violence is more common than one might think. Before the age of 18, around 80 percent of females and nearly 40 percent of males experience some form of dating violence, said Alisa Norlin, 22nd Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Program outreach manager.

“Further data tells us that 85 percent of all parents have no idea it’s even an issue at this age,” said Norlin. “So you have parents who are unaware that teens are already experiencing physical, emotional or sexual violence in high school or middle school.”

Several classes are offered to help educate parents about issues they may encounter while raising teenagers. They include: Active Parenting of Teens, Parenting with Love and Logic and Surviving Your Adolescent.

Programs and activities are also held at the base youth center to help educate teens on the risks of teen dating violence. The children are split into two groups based on age.

“We talk a little bit differently to the different age groups about it,” Norlin said. “We’re certainly not encouraging the young people at 12 and 13 years old to date, but what we focus on at that point is what good, healthy relationships look like.

“We try and focus more on the positives than we do on the negatives. We can talk about what not to do, but the research tells us that kids learn better and it stays with them longer if you teach them what to do as opposed to what not to do.”

People who experience dating violence early in life may not be aware of what a healthy relationship really is. According to the Break the Cycle website, “being able to tell the difference between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships can be more difficult than you would think. No two relationships are the same, so what’s unhealthy in one relationship may be abusive in another.”

For today’s generation of teenagers, the dating culture is vastly different from how it was in the past, when teens were more likely to date around to find a person they were compatible with.

“Back in the day, you might go out with five or six people then settle on somebody who you want to go steady with,” said Norlin. “Once you made that decision to be exclusive, there would be the promise ring, then there would be the engagement ring and then the wedding ring. It’s very different today. You don’t see that lineal progression like you did back then. We don’t see young people dating around.”

Now, the normal trend for teens is to go from one committed relationship to another very quickly.

“Oftentimes, commitment happens very early on without [the teens] having had any experience dating other people,” said Norlin. “Those relationships are expected to be monogamous until they’re over and then they immediately get into a committed relationship with someone else.”

Norlin stresses that it’s okay to be an “unattached” teenager. Young people should enjoy their high school experience while working on deciding who they want to become.

For more information on teen dating violence, visit https://www.breakthecycle.org/loveisnotabuse or contact the McConnell Family Advocacy Program at (316) 759-5768.