Watch out for the signs of teen dating violence Published Feb. 18, 2021 By Steve Mayfield JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, or TDVAM. As the father of a teenage daughter, this subject and monthly observation, really resonates with me. In a selfish way, I’m kind of glad that COVID-19 has interrupted our social norms and limited the “teen dating scene.” One of the collateral aspects of the restrictions that have resulted from this epidemic is that I don’t have to worry about what might happen when my daughter is out on a date, or even out with a group of her friends. For the parents out there, perhaps you have similar feelings and thoughts. This month is set aside to ensure we all are made more aware of teen dating violence and some of its accompanying aspects such as stalking and sexual assault. This year’s TDVAM theme is “Know Your Worth.” Here’s a question for parents: When was the last time you had a conversation with your teen (both males and females) about dating abuse? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three in four parents say they have had a conversation with their teen about what it means to be in a healthy relationship – but 74 percent of sons and 66 percent of daughters said they have not had the conversation about dating abuse with a parent in the past year. It may be time to re-engage on this subject again. Let’s define teen dating violence. According to the Community Resource Center based in San Diego, California, “teen dating violence is a type of domestic violence or intimate partner violence. Teen dating violence is the use of coercive, intimidating, or manipulative behaviors to exert power and control over a partner. It can happen in person or electronically, especially through-unwanted texting and social media posts.” The CDC goes on to indicate that one out of every three adolescents – 33 percent – report having experienced verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual dating abuse each year. The CDC also says that youth who are victims of teen dating violence are more likely to: Experience symptoms of depression and anxiety; Engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol; Exhibit antisocial behaviors, like lying, theft, bullying, physically hitting/striking others; and Have thoughts about suicide. During this month, organizations, teachers, and parents are highly encouraged to develop initiatives and strategies focused on empowering and informing teens of methods to establish and engage in “healthy relationships,” which are relationships centered on respect and equality These are relationships grounded in the reality that there are challenges associated with establishing and maintaining healthy interpersonal connections. As adults/parents, it is vitally important that we relinquish a bit of control and wholeheartedly listen to what our teens have to say. Remember, at one point, we were teens, as well. Think back to your teenage years … how easy was it for you to discuss “relationship issues” with your parents? For many of us, I would venture to say this was not an easy conversation to have. If it was easy for you, consider yourself fortunate. While the month of February provides an opportunity to focus on teen dating violence, it requires our focus and attention throughout the year, as well. If you have teenagers who are dating, or who are of dating age, encourage them and the persons they have relationships with to go to Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month 2021 Pledge at https://www.factforward.org/ and complete the form. The pledge simply states: “I pledge to treat my partners with equality and respect. I pledge to use healthy communication to resolve conflict. I pledge to ask for consent and respect my partners' boundaries.” Your teen then types his/her initials in the box provided to sign the pledge. They may also consent to have their initials published and indicate that they would like to receive more information about teen dating violence and healthy relationships. According to the CDC, approximately 360 teens are treated in emergency rooms each day for “assault injuries.” Violence prevention is a key component in protecting our teenagers and supporting their growth into healthy adults. Personally, I am going to do all I can to ensure my daughter is not one of those who were/are assaulted. How about you? For more information, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636) or TTY at 1-888-232-6348, or at https://www.cdc.gov.