Teenagers get abused too!

When was the last time you talked to your teen about domestic violence? You tell your teens how much you love them. They are aware of your busy work schedule to meet the needs of the family, both personal and financial.  However, on the outside of your teens’ personal and family time, they are out in the world navigating this lovely thing called life.

What does life look like for your teen? Well, outside of their natural growing pains, educational goals, parents’ expectations and demands, there is an inevitable part of their lives called building relationships. Relationship building as we know, can be one of the most difficult processes ever. Especially when they are building upon one that may be unhealthy and abusive.

February was National Teen Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. According to US statistics, it is noted that 1.5 million teens per year are affected by physical abuse during dating violence. It is further noted that 3 in 4 parents have never talked with their teens about domestic violence. Why is that? There are many parents who are aware of domestic violence, but do not believe that their teenagers are being subjected to it.

Many believe that if their teens are not showing visible signs (physical abuse) that they are fine. NEWS FLASH!!! Domestic violence is also in the form of verbal, emotional, digital and financial abuse to name a few. Unless showing physical signs, domestic violence can go undetected if you aren’t aware of what to look out for. There are many teenagers being subjected to domestic abuse today. When asked why do they remain silent about their abuse, many say, because no one asked.

As a parent myself, I too, am guilty of not asking my children whether or not they had been subjected to an abusive relationship. I was the parent that told them what not to do in a relationship. I was always clear when telling them how they should and shouldn’t behave towards others.

However, what I am most guilty of is not asking them if they was clear on what domestic violence looked like; and whether or not they wanted to share with me what they considered to be a domestic violent relationship.

Considering that I was also a teen victim of domestic violence, one would think I would know better right? My self confessed guilt was thinking that:

  1. They were too young (11-12 yrs).
  2. They weren’t allowed to date anyway.
  3. I had taught them how to treat others. I was dead wrong!

Although my children are now almost 28 and 21 years of age, I realise that I was more focused on making sure that they knew how to treat others, that I spent very little time teaching them about the various abusive signs portrayed by others; and what to do when they saw them creeping in..

Let’s spend time encouraging our teens to talk and share about what they consider to be a healthy and unhealthy relationship. We can also take the conversations one step further and share the signs of domestic abuse in dating relationships. Remember, not all dating relationships are intimate; but all domestic violence is abuse.

As a mother, daughter, aunt, godmother, friend, facilitator, and years of experience in the field, I have decided to run our very first “Uniquely Kept” Program for teen girls. This program is tailored to meet the needs of our young ladies as they navigate this lovely thing called life. Relationship building is hard enough, can you imagine how much easier it will be using a personal guide.

Five tips to start the domestic violence conversation with your teens:

  1. In a quiet and comfortable environment of their choice, have the conversation with your teen about dating.
  2. Ask your teen what they consider to be a healthy relationship.
  3. Ask your teen what they consider to be an unhealthy relationship.
  4. Ask your teen if they are aware of what domestic violence looks like and if they would be willing to share.
  5. Parents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, and neighbors, be prepared to tell them what domestic violence looks like. Also, be prepared to hear their answers. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers. Just a healthy dialogue. NO SHOCKED FACES PLEASE.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, and is looking for a way out, but are uncertain where to start, feel free to visit www.underkonstruction.org for services, cost, and support. Or email tina@underkonstruction.org.

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