February 9, 2018
Dashia Abrams had big dreams. The 19-year-old Huffman High School graduate had plans to pursue a criminal justice degree. Instead, just a few weeks into summer last year, she was shot to death by her boyfriend, who later turned the gun on himself.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships and promote programs that prevent it. Studies show that 1 in 3 teenagers in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a dating partner before reaching adulthood.
“It is a widespread problem with long-term effects,” said Annetta Nunn, community outreach coordinator for YWCA Central Alabama. “Many teenagers don’t report it because they are afraid to tell their family and friends. If they don’t seek help, though, it can spiral out of control pretty quickly.”
Dating violence is a type of intimate partner violence and can be physical, emotional, sexual, financial or digital. Girls and young women ages 16-24 experience the highest rate of dating abuse and nearly half of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors, according to loveisrespect.org.
That’s why the YW offers the Healthy Relationships program to students at middle and high schools. Based on the Safe Dates curriculum, the program teaches students the difference between loving, safe relationships and controlling, manipulative and abusive ones.
So how do you know if someone you love is at risk? Here are some of the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship:
- Extreme jealousy, insecurity or possessivenes
- Constant belittling or put-downs
- Explosive temper
- Isolation from family and friends
- Making false accusations and having erratic mood swings
- Physically inflicting pain or injury
- Excessive control
- Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex
- Controls who partner is friends with or follows on social media
- Sends negative, insulting or threatening texts or messages
- Sends unwanted explicit photos or videos and demands partner to do the same
“The first thing you should do if someone tells you they are in an abusive relationship is believe them,” Nunn said. “Then call the YWCA’s Crisis Hotline at 205.322.HURT (4878) to get information on safety planning and other resources.”
Getting help is crucial. Violent relationships in adolescence can put victims at higher risk for substance abuse, depression and anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
For information about the Healthy Relationships program or to bring it to your school, contact Annetta Nunn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get involved with the YWCA or to support our programs, click here.