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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Nebraska --

Dating, that word will make any parent cringe, especially when it is being used in the context of their own child.  In the past dating was just that you dated possibly multiple persons until you decided to “go steady” it was a very deliberate act to commit to a relationship even at that age. 

As a father with four boys, wasting time texting, or talking to their silly girlfriend and not enough time on school or family had been my biggest concern around their teenage dating experience.  The consequence of their relationship not working out is a little heart ache and a good lesson to learn early.  I felt my primary responsibility as a father was to dish out some wise words, issues some threats and make sure someone was always around to discourage any kind of foolishness or sexual touching. 

Dating violence?  It did not even occur to me that it could be an issue or something I should speak to my boys about, and I am not the only one.  It turns out 81 percent of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they do not know if it is one.  This is probably because teens in abusive relationships don’t ever tell anyone.  In fact only 33 percent of teens who are in an abusive relationship ever tell anyone about the abuse?  It surprised me to find that if a teenager should find them self in an abusive relationship only one teen in three would tell anybody.  They don’t just keep this abusive relationship a secret from us “old people”, but their friends as well.  This concerns me as a parent so I started to look more deeply into this and what I found was startling.

It is estimated that nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.  Knowing there are only 312,242 active duty airmen.  We are looking at a population roughly 5x’s that of the Air Force Active Duty population experiencing physical abuse from someone who reports to care about them and they are all teenagers.

As any good father does, I have taught my boys to stand up for themselves.  Not once did I teach them this lesson with dating in mind, but I should have.  As it turns out that is where our teenage children are most vulnerable, because according to reports, one in 10 high school students have been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. 

It is disconcerting to know that one in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. 

If you are a parent, aunt, uncle, grandparent, coach or anyone connected to teens it’s time to get the facts and pay attention to the teens in your life, is their relationship healthy?  Do they know what a healthy relationship is?  If you need more information or a way to initiate the conversation start here http://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/teendvmonth/ . Do not let the young one you love become a statistic.

For more information, or to seek help and support, contact the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate and the Family Advocacy Program at 402-294-7886.