The Secret Dating Life of Teens
By: Aesha Adams-Roberts
"Oh, they're a couple," she thought to herself. Even though the young woman looked terrified, her back against the wall as the man yelled and waved his arms, my sister assumed they were just a couple having an argument.
Moments later, someone called the police when the young lady, previously frozen with fear, told them she didn't even know the guy. He had assaulted her right in the open, surrounded by other college students during their break from night class. Everyone assumed they were just a couple having an argument.
I stayed up until midnight helping my 19-year-old sister process what she'd seen and experienced. One thing I repeatedly stressed was that even if the young woman and man were dating, his behavior toward her would not have been acceptable. It would have been considered dating violence and abuse.
Is anyone else concerned that we have a generation that thinks dating abuse between teens is "normal?" Ponder this: High school students in a small town in New York performed a homecoming skit re-enacting a 2009 domestic violence incident in which singer Chris Brown assaulted his girlfriend Rhianna. (Read the story here) This reveals that it's not just kids who have become comfortable with dating violence. When asked why they allowed the kids to do the skit–in blackface, no less–the District Superintendent said he didn't think the students were trying to offend anyone. Besides, he said, the teachers approved the skit before the homecoming pep rally.
The teachers approved a skit in which a teenage boy pretended to assault a teen girl?!
Domestic violence and dating abuse is no laughing matter. As one who has experienced verbal and emotional abuse in dating in my early 20s, I know how confusing and terrifying it can be. As parents, grandparents, teachers, youth leaders and mentors, we need to help young people understand what a healthy relationship looks like and what dating violence and abuse look like! And from the looks of things, we need to start sooner rather than later.
Consider these shocking statistics:
In a study involving 7th graders, more than 75% said they had been in a dating relationship. 37% said they'd been victims of emotional or verbal abuse and 15% said they've experienced physical dating violence.
What was most surprising to me was that 75% of the teens said they talk to their parents about dating or relationships. Yes, the fact that teens want to talk to their parents about their relationships is a good thing. However, there are obviously things going on in these relationships that remain a secret.
It's time to talk. If this is your first time hearing about this issue, sit down with your kids and ask them what they think about it. If you don't know where to start, ask them their thoughts on the latest gossip on Chris Brown and Rhianna; ask them what they thought about the New York kids' homecoming skit. Get on their level so you can uncover the secret thoughts of their heart.
Is the topic of teen dating violence and abuse surprising to you? What do you think needs to be done about it? Please tell me in a comment below.