Teens need to know about dating violence

Since its inception in 1893, the YWCA’s mission has been empowering women of all ages. That means providing resources, a safe place to rest, eat and socialize. Services provided have evolved over the last several years but the core goal to empower lives remains. Educating the community has long been part of our mission to empower women while promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all people. Subsequently, we have a Prevention Educator who is dedicated to preventing first-time perpetration of violence and fostering referrals through education.

Since February was Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, that is the topic our Prevention Educator, Jennifer Swanson, has been teaching. On Feb. 12 and 19, she visited Clear Vision in Montgomery to help teens understand that dating violence can happen in any relationship.

Her lesson started like this: After a little “test” to see what the teens knew, Swanson asked, “What do you think the definition of teen dating violence is?” While the teens were able to answer the question well, I wonder what you think it entails. Is it physical abuse? Verbal, emotional, or mental control?

It can be all-of-the-above; it is when one partner takes control over another. What one might consider flattering, could be a form of abuse. Maybe a partner wants to know where you are at-all-times, and who you are with. Or maybe they want you to dress a certain way. Or perhaps you are being complimented all the time (otherwise known as love-bombing), they will not take no for answer, or they are jealous of other people you spend time with. Red flags can be a variety of words and actions, not just physical violence.

Teen dating violence happens everywhere. According to DoSomething.org, one in three teenagers will experience some form of abuse in their dating relationships. There were approximately 116,000 residents in Lycoming County reported during the most recent census, 25,000 of which are under 19 years old. If one in every three teens are experiencing dating violence, that means about 9,000 teenagers in our area have or are currently suffering at the hands of a partner. That number is too high. But there are ways to prevent dating violence.

Talking to your teen may be uncomfortable. But knowing the red flags is the first step. The teen may have something on their mind but may be unsure how to bring it up. Teens often struggle to talk to their parents about certain topics, so often, they either talk to someone else or do not talk about it at all. Acknowledging that dating violence occurs among teens is the first step towards a meaningful conversation.

Parents and teachers can watch for signs that a teen relationship is unhealthy. Some of those signs include: the young adult may start acting withdrawn, depressed, or anxious. They may start changing their activities, check-in with their partner all the time, become overly self-critical or insecure, secretive, or apologetic for their partner’s negative actions. For teachers, this might look like grades beginning to drop, withdrawal from sports, or avoidance of peer groups. Prevention education is available for parents, community groups, students, and educators.

Our Prevention Educator focuses on sharing information in a way that is interactive and easy to understand for any age group. Currently, presentations are being conducted both in-person and through video calls. Sessions are free of charge and a great way to begin that dreaded, but crucial conversation. A list of available courses is on the YWCA Northcentral PA website. If you would like to schedule a time for her to speak to your students, call 570-322-4637 ext. 112 or send an email to jswanson@ywcawilliamsport.org.

If you or someone you know has experienced teen dating or domestic violence, sexual assault, or other violent crimes, support is available. The YWCA Northcentral PA’s Wise Options hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-326-8483. All services provided are free and confidential.


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