With February being Teen Dating Violence Month, the issue of dating violence has been brought to the forefront, and the stats which several private and governmental agencies have compiled regarding this issue are eye-opening.
For example, one in three girls in the U.S. are the victims of physical, emotional or verbal abuse at the hands of a boyfriend, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus.
Here in Grayson County, dating violence has been an issue, but through localized education, the instances of violence and abuse directed toward teen girls seems to be on the decline.
“Most of the stuff I dealt with in dating violence was when I was a (Kentucky State) Trooper,” said Norman Chaffins, the Leitchfield Police Department’s liaison with Grayson County Schools, and former State Trooper. “I worked several cases here at the high school where a boy and girl were dating, and they found themselves in a sexual situation, (and) essentially the boy would force himself on the girl. I think girls need to know that no means no, it doesn’t mean maybe, or maybe later, it means no.”
Many times, though, young girls, instead of saying no, will cooperate with their boyfriends even though they aren’t receptive to the boy’s advances.
“(The girls) think, just because they are dating the person that they can’t speak up about it, and I think that’s where the problem comes in,” Chaffins said. “These teenage girls sometimes feel obligated to do what the boy says they need to do. They don’t realize that just because they are dating, they can still say no. I think girls (and boys) need to know that no means no, it doesn’t mean maybe, or maybe later, it means no.”
Frighteningly, one-quarter of high school girls have been the victim of physical or sexual abuse, or date rape, according to the Commonwealth Fund Survey for the Health of Adolescent Girls. But here in Grayson County the reported instances of physical coercion directed at girls seems to be dropping.
”I haven’t worked anything since I’ve been here at the high school (since September), but I know that for a couple of years in a row I worked several cases out here at the high school,” Chaffins stated. “It was all boys who were dating girls” who were committing some type of violence against the female.
“That’s another reason why I’m here at the high school as a liaison; it’s for situations like that,” Chaffins said. “But since I’ve been here, I’ve not had any incidents like that come up. I have many different students in my office and we have discussed issues such as that (dating violence), but as far as a girl coming and telling me, ‘hey this happened,’ or a student coming and telling me that this happened to a girl here at school;” that hasn’t happened.
Certainly good news, but according to a Teenage Research Unlimited Study, only 33.0 percent of teens who are, or were in an abusive relationship, ever told anyone about the abuse. Something Chaffins is acutely aware of.
“I think it -- not being made aware of dating abuse recently -- doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not happening,” Chaffins explained.
Dating violence education, though, has been a key factor in raising awareness among teens about violence in a dating relationship in the Grayson County School System.
“I think that we are trying to educate as much as possible,” Chaffins said. ”Most of the education we’ve done is in the classroom with teachers. It seems like once that awareness, and once people began to know more about it (dating violence), and girls starting realizing that hey, this is happening to me and this needs to stop. I think once they became more educated, they started realizing it does happen here. (And since the students have been educated about this issue) we’ve seen less and less occurrence of that here at the school.”
The National Resource Center for Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention offers the following information and tips regarding teen dating violence:
What Does Dating Violence Look Like
Teens and young adults experience the same types of abuse in relationships as adults. This can include:
- Physical Abuse: Any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon.
- Verbal or Emotional Abuse: Non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
- Sexual Abuse: Any action that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion or restricting access to birth control.
- Digital Abuse: Use of technologies and/or social media networking to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or ex-dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, cyber bullying, sexting, excessive or threatening texts or stalking on Facebook or other social media.
- Checking your cell phone or email without permission
- Constantly putting you down
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Explosive temper
- Isolating you from family or friends
- Making false accusations
- Mood swings
- Physically hurting you in any way
- Telling you what to do