Teens: Relationships aren’t supposed to hurt

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. You might not think that domestic violence is a part of teen dating, but it is. One in 10 high school students reported in a survey that they have experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the past year, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Risk factors for teen dating violence include individual, peer, partner, parent and neighborhood influences. The effects can last a lifetime.

Violence is using physical force which is meant to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something. By law it is “the unlawful exercise of physical force or intimidation by the exhibition of such force.”

In other words, dating violence is when someone you are seeing romantically harms you in some way, whether it is physically, sexually, emotionally, or all three, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.

Emotional and verbal abuse includes yelling at you, calling you names, bullying you, isolating you from family and friends, saying you deserve the abuse or are to blame for it. Then they give you gifts to make everything better. They may even promise to change, but they don’t. It happens again … and again.

Sexual assault and rape occurs when you are forced to do something you don’t want to do or taking advantage of you when you are in no condition to give consent, like when you have been drinking too much. (Teens shouldn’t be drinking, but in the real world some of them do. The CDC reports that 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the U.S. by people ages 12-20. More than 90 percent of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks. Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among underage youth each year.)

Physical abuse includes any aggressive contact with you: biting, choking, hitting, kicking, shoving, throwing things.

When someone invites you to go out on a date, you don’t owe the person sex to pay for it. Too much jealousy, telling you what you are allowed to wear or not wear, who you can hang out with, keeping you from your family and friends, are all unacceptable. Getting angry with you because they texted you and you didn’t answer right away also is unacceptable. Criticizing your level of intelligence or the value of your activities, also are unacceptable. And blaming you for his or her actions? No, you are not to blame. It’s called self-control and if they had self-control they would take responsible for their actions and words. And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Dating violence, which is very common in the United States, starts with emotional and verbal attacks to gain power and control over you. Remember that you belong to you and you should be making the decisions about what is good and right for you, including breaking up with this person. The issues escalate as time goes on. You may think that things will get better, but it’s more likely that you will develop physical health and mental health problems if you remain in the relationship. There is danger in some unhealthy relationships, and in leaving them.

That person may be the most beautiful or handsome face in the entire high school, but if he or she is harming you, it’s time to tell them goodbye because when someone loves you, they want good things for you, and they respect you. (Respect is deep admiration for someone because of who they are, for their feelings, rights, traditions and wishes.)

Many teens don’t report the violence in their relationships to parents or friends because they are afraid to talk about it. Parents, the thing to take away from this is that teens are influenced about how relationships work from what they see in the relationships of their parents and other adults, their peers, and the media. You have much more influence over your children than you might think. They don’t need their parents to be their friends. They need their parents to parent, to give them guidance through the pitfalls of life and giving them a better chance at having a better life when they make healthy choices.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.