Don’t Look Away From Domestic Violence and Dating Abuse
Yesterday was the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness month. While the issue garnered some media attention, the news was largely focused on specific incidents of the worst cases – murders – and of course, celebrity. Every November 1, after Domestic Violence Awareness month ends, I wonder if the far-reaching effects of this issue are well-understood. Experiencing violence in a relationship has serious and immediate consequences, and there also are secondary emotional concerns that can affect the survivor’s quality of life for years.
Most have heard the statistic that domestic violence is the number one cause of injury for women ages 15 to 44 and affects one out of every four women. But many are not aware that the number increases when you look at young women: one in three adolescent girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.My work focuses also on dating abuse because I believe this is where we can break the cycle and help young women reject the idea that abusive relationships are acceptable. Dating abuse is a difficult and often taboo topic that cuts across race and socioeconomic lines. I interact with these young girls on a regular basis, and witness how scared and isolated they feel.
What’s also surprising is how often the warning signs are ignored. Sixty-four percent of teens have been victims of verbal abuse, and a recent survey by Mary Kay found that a third of parents knew of inappropriate phone communication between their child and a romantic partner, i.e., calling 10+ times a day, texted 20+ times a day to check up. There is a very clear pattern for abuse, and I believe everyone should learn to spot the signs.Open communication about the risk of dating abuse, awareness of resources for help and the support of friends and family are critical for victims. Every city has women’s shelters, and there are newer services like the non-profit loveisrespect, which runs a texting service that provides 24/7 counseling for teen dating abuse victims, and their friends and family members.
Everyone deserves to be in a safe, healthy relationship. This issue shouldn’t disappear from the media for the next 11 months. It’s critical that everyone take the time learn what a healthy, positive relationship looks like. Please don’t look away if you suspect a family member or friend is in an unhealthy relationship. Text “loveis” to 77054. Have the courage to speak up and to help. Just don’t look away.