February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and Domestic Violence Prevention Inc. is working to raise awareness of this issue which is more common than most people think.
One in three teens in this country experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a relationship partner by the time they become adults. Dating abuse affects approximately 1.5 million teens annually, according to LoveIsRespect.org.
DVP's Volunteer Coordinator Trinity Gardner makes presentations at area middle schools and high schools to educate teens and adults about the prevalence of the issue and what signs to watch out for.
"A person's concept of love and what a healthy relationship looks like starts at a young age," Gardner said. "As teens are developing, their understanding of healthy relationships is greatly affected by what they learn from parents and teachers. We're going into schools and doing these presentations because we want to make sure that both teens and adults can recognize the signs of an abusive relationship."
An abusive relationship may include violence or physical aggression but not always. It could also consist of controlling behavior, isolation, pressuring a partner to do things they aren't comfortable with, name-calling and insults, checking a partner's phone, email or social media or demanding their password.
A person who's in an abusive relationship may show personality or appearance changes.
"Teens in an abusive relationship may lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They might become more critical of themselves and more secretive. Their appearance might change and they may lose interest in friends. Their partner may isolate them or become too clingy. Parents need to be able to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship so they can take the necessary steps to help their child," Gardner said.
For more information or to schedule a presentation on teen dating violence, call Gardner at 903-794-4000. Anyone in an abusive situation can call DVP's 24/7 crisis line at 903-793-4357.