For All Seasons Rape Crisis Center asks our community to share in honoring National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month this February. Teen sexual dating violence affects millions of teens in the United States each year. In fact, 26 percent of women and 15 percent of men experience intimate partner violence for the first time before age 18.
On the Mid-Shore, more than one in 13 teens report experiencing sexual dating violence, according to the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Mid-Shore teens also experience physical dating violence at a rate that is 21 percent higher than the overall Maryland reports. (Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey)
Teen sexual dating violence is surprisingly common, with more than half of adolescent sexual violence occurring in the context of a dating or intimate relationship.
Sexual dating violence occurs when a dating partner forces or attempts to force a partner to participate in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent. (cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/tdv-factsheet.pdf) Often, sexual dating violence amongst teens goes hand in hand with dating violence. In these cases, teen abusers may use sexual violence as a tactic to get or keep power and control over their dating partner.
“It is vital that Mid-Shore teens have permission to call sexual dating violence what it is: a crime,” shares Kristy Mirando, Director of Victim Services at For All Seasons. “Sexual violence is always illegal, regardless of who perpetrates it or what your relationship you have with your abuser.”
Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can have short and long-term adverse effects on a developing teen. For instance, teens who are victims of sexual dating violence experience higher rates of depression and anxiety symptoms and are more likely to seriously consider suicide. Additionally, these teens more frequently engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. (Data from CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey)
Sexually abusive and violent behaviors can take place both in-person and electronically. Virtual sexual dating violence could include a dating partner posting sexual pictures of a partner online without their consent. It also includes a phenomenon known as ‘sextortion,’ when a dating partner threatens to expose sexual images as coercion for additional photos, sexual favors, or other things of value.
Research asserts that efforts to support the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships can reduce the occurrence of sexual dating violence. Programs that engage young people in learning critical skills — such as managing feelings, using healthy communication, and defining and maintaining personal boundaries — can be particularly effective at preventing sexual dating violence. (cdc.gov/violenceprevention/datingmatters)
“If a teen in your life approaches you about concerns in their dating relationship, your most helpful course of action is to believe them, support them, and validate their experiences,” says Beth Anne Langrell, CEO – For All Seasons, “Communicating to them that they have access to resources and support is critical.”
How can you support the young people in your life? There are several resources listed in https://www.teendvmonth.org/category/resources/, which includes information about how to talk with your teen about sexual violence, as well as informational websites and hotlines for teens needing support, including https://www.loveisrespect.org/.
If you know a Mid-Shore teen that needs support, contact For All Seasons. For information or appointments contact 410-822-1018. For 24-hour mental health or sexual assault crisis hotlines contact 410-820-5600 for English or 410-829-6143 for Spanish or text in English and Spanish.