February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Did you know 1 in 3 adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of abuse from a dating partner? Did you know girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence–almost triple the national average? Teen dating violence affects many across the nation.

So what is teen dating violence? Behaviors used by teens to gain power and control over their dating partner is considered teen dating violence. These behaviors can include: physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse.

Communication is a key part to building a healthy relationship. Every relationship has occasional arguments and disagreements-this is normal. How you choose to deal with your disagreements is what really counts. A healthy partner is respectful, trustworthy, honest, dependable and trustworthy.

So what are some characteristics of healthy teen relationships? Good partners aren’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings. They listen to your ideas and compromise sometimes. They don’t get angry if you spend time with your friends or family. They are comfortable around your family and friends. They are not excessively negative and they are proud of your accomplishments.  They encourage you to do well in school and activities.

There are warning signs one can watch for to decide if they are in an unhealthy relationship. The abusive partner may check their partner’s cell phone, email or social media without permission. The abusive partner may constantly put their partner down along with being extremely jealous or insecure. Other signs are explosive temper, isolation from family or friends, mood swings, possessiveness, telling the partner what to do and making false accusations.

How can you help a friend who is in an unhealthy relationship? Listen to and believe what your friend is telling you. Respect your friend’s right to make decisions about the unhealthy relationship. Support your friend without trying to pressure a break-up. Always respect confidentiality of what is being told to you. Suggest someone your friend might feel comfortable confiding in to discuss options. Give your friend phone numbers to dating abuse helplines.

Being abused is not the victim’s fault. Abusive partners may try to make the abused person take responsibility for the abuse. It is important to know that there’s help, hope and healing after abuse.

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