By Betsy Lazerow, JCARES Outreach Coordinator
Your 13 year-old may appear to be completely absorbed in math club, sports and preparing for his or her Bar/Bat Mitzvah – but 89% of 13 to 18 year-olds say they’re in or have had a dating relationship, according to a Children Now/Kaiser Permanente poll.
US government statistics reveal that 1 in 10 Illinois teens was a victim of physical abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last year, so it’s not too early to have a conversation about healthy relationships. The first people most teens will turn to when they are being abused are their friends – but JCFS wants you to know what parents and community members can do to help prevent teen dating violence and abuse.
The 1 in 10 statistic from the US Department of Health and Human Services, by the way, does not include emotionally, verbally or sexually abused teens! The problem is so severe that the US Congress has designated February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, also known as “teenDVmonth.”
Love is Respect, a project of nonprofit Break the Cycle and the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline, has created “A Parent's Guide to Teen Dating Violence.” This resource is helpful for parents looking for guidance on how to talk to their teens or pre-teens about this tough topic.
Learning to recognize teen dating abuse is the first thing you can do to help. Warning signs of an abusive relationship can include when a boyfriend or girlfriend:
- Calls a date names and puts down that person in front of others
- Acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to his or her date
- Controls behavior, checks up constantly, calls or texts or demands to know with whom a date has been when they are not together
Take steps to keep the lines of communication open:
- Be a role model - treat teens and others with respect.
- Start talking to teens about healthy relationships early – before they start dating.
- Accentuate the positive. Remember that most teens are engaging in healthy relationships!
- Approach your synagogue, school or camp about implementing a healthy relationships educational program for teens, parents, and staff. JCFS’s JCARES Safer Synagogues or Response Center can facilitate these programs.
If you are worried about a teen: