Watching for the ″Red Flags″ of Teen Relationship Violence

The term ″red flag″ is used to describe potential warning signs in multiple situations of life. Credit card companies and banks look for red flags that suggest a customer′s card may have been stolen. Certain behavior characteristics can be red flags of substance abuse addiction. Children may exhibit red flags that raise suspicion of an emotional problem.
Red flags can also appear to indicate that a person could be the victim of an abusive relationship. Dating violence among teens is a larger problem than most people realize. It can happen to anyone, regardless of social status, upbringing, or any other factor. These statistics provided by ChooseRespect.org show approximately how many or our teens are in these situations.
  • Approximately one in 11 teens report being a victim of physical dating abuse each year.
  • About one in four teens report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse each year.
  • 1 in 3 teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or otherwise physically hurt by his or her partner.
  • 80% of teens regard verbal abuse as a serious issue for their age group.
  • Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their dating relationship continue to date their abuser.
So how can we as parents help prevent our kids from being part of these statistics? We can educate ourselves and teens about what kind of red flags are typical of an abusive relationship. Here is a short list of potential warning signs from Choose Respect.
  • Bruises, scratches, or other injuries.
  • Failing grades.
  • Dropping out of school activities.
  • Avoiding friends and social events.
  • Changes in clothes or make-up.
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits.
  • Secrecy.
  • Avoiding eye contact.
  • Crying spells or hysteria fits.
  • Alcohol or drug use.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Sudden changes in mood or personality.
  • Fearfulness around the dating partner or when his or her name is mentioned.
While it is very important to educate teens how to not become a victim of an abusive relationship, they also need to be taught how not to be a perpetrator of abuse either. Parents can do this by stressing to their teenager the importance of having healthy relationships with their peers. They may find it difficult to talk to teens about dating and relationships. It′s very important, however, to get a head start on it. The earlier teens understand healthy relationships, the more likely they will exhibit these characteristics as they grow older. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention offers these ideas for skills to work on with kids and teens:
  1. Respect: showing consideration for the feelings and well–being of the other person.
  2. Anger Management: dealing with anger in positive, non–violent ways.
  3. Problem Solving: knowing how to break problems down, find possible solutions, and consider the likely outcomes for each solution.
  4. Negotiation and Compromise: turning problems into ″win–win″ situations in which each partner gets some of what he or she wants.
  5. Assertiveness — Not Aggression: asking for what one wants clearly and respectfully, without threats, intimidation, or physical force. Assertive communication means respecting the rights of others, as well as your own rights.
Working together, we can provide the foundation for teens to have mutually respectful relationships with one another. We can also help eliminate the amount of red flags spotted in these relationships.
The DELTA Project of Hill County wants to help the teens in our community make better choices about dating and relationships. If you would like more information about Healthy Relationships or Teen Dating Abuse, contact the DELTA Project at the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi–Line at 265–6206. The DELTA Project is available for presentations on this subject and others related to healthy relationship and dating violence.
Havre Public Schools and the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi–Line are committed to promoting safe and healthy lifestyles to become long–lived, responsible citizens. For more information on this or related topics, call 265-6206.