As a survivor of teen sexual assault, I believe in the importance of sharing the facts on teen dating violence and sexual assault. I, unfortunately (and like so many others), didn’t have an adult that understood the gravity and frequency at which teens experience sexual assault or violence within their relationships.
Instead, these conversations seem to be saved for women in their 20s and 30s. Studies have even found that a whopping 81% of parents of teenagers don’t believe teen dating violence is really an issue and 58% of parents don’t know how to recognize the signs of sexual assault, physical abuse, or dating violence.
This lack of awareness undoubtedly contributes to the fact that so many people don’t receive the help that they need. Plus, speaking out about sexual assault or partner violence is scary – especially when it feels like nobody will believe you. And, that’s exactly why speaking out and sharing the facts on partner violence and sexual assault among teenagers is so vital. Spreading awareness about the frequency of these issues is the first step to opening the conversation and providing helpful and safe resources to people who are struggling.
Nearly 20% of women and 14% of men experience teen dating violence, abuse, or sexual assault. Furthermore, in any given year, 1.5 million high school students in the United States experience physical abuse of some sort from a partner. As you can see, sexual assault and dating violence are terribly common among teenagers, as well. In the long term, these destructive relationships put individuals at a higher risk of developing an addiction, eating disorder, and further sexual and domestic assault. So, what can we do about this, while remaining safe and mentally well?
According to the CDC, the best way to prevent relationship violence and sexual assault starts with the parents. Parents must become aware of the issue and learn how to open the conversation with their teenagers in order to help prevent unhealthy dating relationships. Some strategies suggested by the CDC include:
- Teaching safe and healthy relationship skills
- Engage teens with influential adults and peers
- Disrupt developmental pathways toward partner violence through family enrichment programs or treatment programs for at-risk youth and families
- Improve school home, work, and social environments for teenagers
- Provide support to survivors to increase safety and lessen harms
If you are a parent who is a survivor of teen dating violence and/or sexual assault, you can even use your own experience to help educate and support your teenager.
Teen dating violence and sexual assault between partners is more common than a lot of people think – and it has devastating emotional and mental consequences. As a result, it’s important to know how to not only prevent it from happening but also how to support survivors of it in a safe and confidential way. This starts by increasing awareness around how often dating violence and sexual assault occur between teenagers because, without awareness, there is no reason to talk about it in the first place – leaving more and more victims to suffer in silence.