Gender-based violence does not turn a blind eye to teen relationships
From newspapers, to TV shows and Netflix series, there is a huge discussion worldwide regarding gender-based violence, especially after the #MeToo story broke out. Asking for consent has not been addressed properly and conversed thoroughly enough until very recently. What is the case when it comes to teenagers though, a more fragile part of our society?
Girls and women suffer disproportionately from violence coming from their intimate partners, as a result of dating violence, whether it is emotional blackmail and psychological manipulation or physical, sexual abuse. According to the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence, more than 60 percent of teens said they had experienced physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse by someone they were dating or were in a relationship with.
Moreover, the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV) conducted in 2008 shows that girls seemed to be more afraid of dating violence victimization compared to other types of victimization than boys. To be more specific, in a list of 43 types of victimization, girls ranked teen dating violence 13th while boys ranked it 42nd.
Those numbers raise two crucial questions; what do we do about prevention and how we do the intervention? The responsibility lies predominantly to adults who are supposed to speak openly to children about relationships at an early stage of their lives, even before they start dating, so that they have already realized what healthy relationships look like and they can set their standards, without compromising for and tolerate bad and abusive behaviors.
What should also be part of the adolescent’s reality is adults — parents, teachers, coaches, grandparents — who the teenagers feel comfortable enough to reach out to and share their experiences, without fear of punishment or criticism. What is more, pediatricians can also be at the lookout for signs of social isolation, changes in their mood and their performance at school. Gender equality education is crucial for everybody, if we want to start creating a more equal and inclusive society for all, regardless their gender.
Indisputably, there are substantial consequences on the health and well-being of teens. Dating violence puts them at risk of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Young survivors of intimate partner violence are at a higher risk of being in abusive relationships in the future and harm themselves.
There are educative programs, like Bwise2 Sexual Exploitation, that teach adolescents how to avoid intimate partner violence, as well as teachers’ guides to violence in teenage relationships and hotlines, such as the freephone and 24-hour National Domestic Violence helpline (T: 0808 2000 247). Against Violence and Abuse, Broken Rainbow and Women’s Aid are some of the charities that are committed to ending gender-based violence and abuse too.
Written by Anastasia Vaitsopoulou – IARS (UK)