LaFASA encourages parents, teens and college students to take an inventory of their relationships this month, which is marked as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. February is almost to an end, however the need to assess relationships is ever present. Teens experience dating violence on a regular basis which includes digital, physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. Relationships generally don’t start abusive, if they did it would be easier to recognize and take action. “Abuse is about control, and that’s exactly how the relationship eventually is framed,” says Kelli Knight Outreach Coordinator for LaFASA. “For example, a guy might tell his girlfriend he doesn’t like her wearing a certain dress. At first she may think it’s a loving way he is trying to protect her. However, slowly it takes shape in the form of the boyfriend controlling her wardrobe as a whole. This is a red flag. If the girlfriend wears the ‘forbidden’ dress again, then he may become abusive verbally, physically, or begin to shame her with photos that he shares with his friends. This is digital abuse and it’s becoming a real problem with adolescents.”
Unhealthy control in a relationship can happen at any age, for any gender couple, and inflicted by any gender. Recognizing teen dating violence can be difficult, in fact a majority of college students (nearly 60% who were polled*) admit they find it hard to determine. Some signs are:
- A significant other says who their boyfriend/girlfriend/partner can or can’t be friends with on Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites.
- A partner uses sites like Snapchat, Facebook and others apps to keep constant tabs on their boyfriend/girlfriend/partner.
- They pressure their boyfriend/girlfriend/partner to send explicit videos or sexts.
- Steals or insists on having access to passwords.
- Refuses to use condoms or restricts access to birth control.
- Sexual contact with a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner who is very drunk, drugged, unconscious or otherwise unable to give a clear and informed “yes” or “no.”
- Threatening a boyfriend/girlfriend/partner into unwanted sexual activity.
Violence and abuse can be stopped and prevented. If we ask our youth to take time, this month and beyond, to examine the relationships they are cultivating, and then compare their current statuses to healthy relationships, then the red flags can be heeded. Let’s continue to promote to middle school, high school and college students messages about dating violence and raise awareness of the differences between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships.
LaFASA is the coalition agency that serves statewide sexual assault crisis centers through education, professional training, technical assistance, and community engagement resulting in safer, healthier, stronger, and better-informed communities throughout Louisiana. LaFASA also provides advocacy and legal services directly to survivors and cultivates prevention in our communities. If you are a survivor and need assistance, please contact the LaFASA Helpline at 888-995-7273 or contact our office directly at 225-372-8995. For valuable resources regarding sexual assault, please visit http://www.lafasa.org.