Teen Dating Violence - February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month!

While Valentine's Day is behind us, a day where every couple tries to be on their best behavior, the reality of teen dating violence surrounds us every day.  Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner and given time, that violence can escalate and become more and more dangerous for the young victim.

Nearly 1.5 million high school student nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. Each year one in four adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse. One in three teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been physically hurt by his or her partner through violent actions which included hitting, punching, kicking, slapping, and/or choking. One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.

What does dating violence look like?

Physical: intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.

Verbal/Emotional: threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.

Sexual: any action that impacts a person's ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion, or restricting access to birth control.

Digital: use of technology or social media to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or ex-dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on social media.

What ramifications do these startling statistics have?  Violent behavior often begins between the ages of 12 and 18 - and the severity of intimate partner violence is often GREATER in cases where a pattern of abuse was established early in adolescence.  Teens subjected to partner violence, whether physical or emotional, are also at much greater risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, depression, academic failure, and being a victim of future violence.  Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.

And although 80% of parents think they can recognize the warning signs of abuse in their teens, only 53% can.

So, for you as parents, or for you, as a teen, here are the TEN MOST COMMON WARNING SIGNS OF ABUSE

1. Checking your cell phone or email without permission

2. Constantly putting you down

3. Extreme jealousy or insecurity

4. Explosive temper

5. Isolating you from family or friends

6. Making false accusations

7. Mood swings

8. Physically hurting you in any way

9. Possessiveness

10. Telling you what to do

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, it's often confusing and hard to know what to do. You may fear what your partner will do if you leave or how your friends or family may react when you tell them.  Find a trusted person - whether it's your parent, your friend, a teacher, coach or trusted adult, and confide in them. You can also chat with a peer advocate online by visiting www.loveisrespect.org, www.breakthe cycle.org or call 866.331.9474 or text "loveis" to 22522 to get help for yourself or your teen.