Be alert to signs of violence in your teen's relationships

Most people think of domestic violence as something that involves married couples or people who at least live together.

However, domestic violence can easily begin while a couple is just dating -- even if the members of that couple are teenagers.

If you have a teenager, here are some important facts that you should keep in mind when he or she begins to date:

  • Domestic violence can be verbal, not just physical. Demeaning comments or verbal abuse are sometimes more destructive than physical violence to a person's psyche.
  • Around 1.5 million teens actually admit they've been physically abused by someone they've dated.
  • It's estimated that one-third of teens in this country are actually victims of some type of abuse while they are dating.
  • Teens are often emotionally vulnerable to their abusers because of the unique social pressures of high school, especially if the abuser is popular with others.
  • Girls aged 16-24 are abused by their boyfriends or girlfriends at three times the rate of others.

The effects of teenage dating violence can last a lifetime. According to research, around one-half of those who experience sexual violence as part of the abuse they suffer will attempt suicide. Female victims of abuse run a 25 percent higher risk an unwanted pregnancy. In general, teenagers who experience domestic violence of any sort are more likely to suffer from eating disorders, alcoholism, suicidal ideation and other negative consequences.

A teen caught up in the cycle of domestic violence is unlikely to know how to seek help -- and may not be aware that help can be obtained through restraining or protective orders. If you're the parent of a teen that's being victimized, take action. If you're unsure of what to do yourself, reach out for help through the courts.

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