Love Shouldn't Hurt
Relationships are never perfect. There are almost always disagreements regarding beliefs, sports teams, or who one can talk to, at least in my experience.
Are these appropriate aspects of relationships, or what society has accepted as the norm? What the media fails to highlight in some of its depictions of teenage romantic relationships is the fact that 1 in 10 female high-schoolers say they have been physically abused by a dating partner (Violence Against Women). Relationships during the adolescent years often affect future relationships. With this knowledge in mind as well as teen dating abuse being such a commonality, then what is being done to help the cause? Other than education in schools, very little. Breakthecycle.org gave the state of Pennsylvania a D on its annual state law report card due to the lack of laws that protect victims. Based upon the statistics clearly stating that teen dating violence has long term effects on its victims, the state of Pennsylvania should create laws that protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable.
The reason behind why this unfortunate phenomenon occurs is not fully understood. However, it is important to realize that violence in adolescent relationships, whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, or economical, is not the same as abuse in adult relationships. One reason for this is because there is typically no financial dependence in a teen relationship, and no child is usually present. Another factor that should be considered, as quoted by teen dating expert Carrie Mulford, is the “lack of experience teens have in negotiating relationships” (Closer Look Relationships). It is important to establish early on in teens’ lives that relationships require a good sense of communication as well as knowing the importance behind forming coping strategies for when conflict emerges.
Understanding the difference between adult and adolescent relationships still does not quite distinguish why violence occurs so often in teens. Could influences from the media perhaps be the cause for why relationships in teens take a turn for the worst? It is not uncommon for one to watch a movie and see a partner smack their significant other around, then kiss and makeup later. Witnessing violent relationships, whether is it on the TV in the fictionalized form or at home among parents, could explain the ill informed conceptions teens form about relationships, thus leading to the alarming rate of violence. Other reasons as to why it happens include use of alcohol and drugs, having multiple sexual partners, and having learning difficulties in school. Despite the limited research available regarding teen dating violence, it is known that it has significant consequences moving forward in life. Unhealthy relationships can cause victims to do “poorly in school and report binge drinking, suicide attempts, and physical fighting” (CDC).
One appalling statistic is that girls who experience teen dating violence have a significantly increased likelihood to suffer negative behavioral and health consequences such as depression, cigarette smoking, and marijuana use (Closer Look Relationships). In school or on the internet, bullying is not tolerated because it leaves a similar aftermath. If there are laws existing to prevent such a thing from occurring, then there is no reason why victims of teen dating violence cannot be guaranteed the same protection. As I am a part of the statistic that says “between two and three in 10 [girls] reported being verbally or psychologically abused” (Closer Look Relationships) I am lucky to say that I only now suffer from a broken heart. In only a year, I have experienced both physical and emotional abuse from two boys.
I was insulted, constantly monitored, threatened to be broke up with, and shaken around with force. However, at the time, I failed to vocalize about how I was being treated. Author of Tornado Warning, a memoir of teen dating violence, Elin Stebbins Waldal, best sums up how I felt in these relationships: My parents had no idea about the red flags of abuse in a relationship…
they knew something was off, but violence would have been the last thing they would have suspected…I told myself it would be all right. And my parents did not detect that I was crumbling inside nor did they see that he was cutting me off from them–isolation, another red flag. My increasing inability to be alone was shaped by a man who convinced me that making decisions was not my forte.
(55) Maybe I could have gotten help if I would have told the two most important people in my life about the pain being inflicted upon me. Unfortunately, only 6% of girls and 11% of boys tell an authority figure (Ogle County). I failed to realize I was in an unhealthy relationship. In a study conducted by Liz Claiborne, 68% of the teenagers in the survey did not believe the behaviors were serious enough to tell their parents. 27% went on to say that they were afraid they could no longer see their partner. It is the job of adults, regardless of title, to make sure that teens are aware of what behaviors in a relationship are and are not okay.
This is where the importance of education comes into play. In the state of Pennsylvania, schools are mandated to have teen dating violence taught in the curriculum (State Legislatures). Many states have adopted weeks and months dedicated to creating awareness and prevention for teen dating violence, but it is not enough. 10% of adolescents nationwide reported being the victim of physical abuse in a romantic relationships (Closer Look Relationships). The extent of what students learn about violent relationships needs to be greater, because despite the education they should be receiving, it is still a common issue.
To further help prevent this issue from affecting more young adults and generations down the roads, laws need to be made, and the ones that are existent need to be more strict. Regardless of age, adolescents who fall victim to teen dating violence should be permitted to receive restraining orders and get mental help. Perpetrators should also be held accountable. Drunk drivers must go to Mother’s Against Drunk Driving meetings, therefore abusers should attend relationship counseling and partake in community service. It is important for victims to feel that they have received justice and their abuser will not get away with what they have committed.
I chose to tell a brief part of my story to make it very clear that teen dating violence can occur in the lives of individuals all across the world regardless of how old one is, how much one has their life together, or their gender; several studies have found that girls and boys are both frequently physically aggressive (Closer Look Relationships). It also can influence future relationships, as sometimes patterns of violence can be brought in. Pennsylvania’s judicial system needs to create laws that make victims and perpetrators think twice before getting involved with someone. Abuse in adolescent relationships needs to be recognized as a significant health problem before it becomes an epidemic. There’s absolutely no use for abuse.