Safety first: Safe dating tips for teens

Bad things happen to good teens. This article shares ideas for preventing dating abuse and violence. Over 60 percent of teens report dating abuse. Share this article with your teen and start the conversation.

There is only one thing worse than having your teenager call you to say she has been assaulted. That is not having them call you at all. This article is meant to begin the conversation while providing ideas to prevent teen dating violence. I hope you read it and share the information with your teenager and begin the discussion.

Teen dating violence victims are sometimes afraid to call parents. As an advocate I met teens after they were hurt, sometimes before parents. We had many discussions about why they didn’t want to call parents. Often, they had been drinking, with someone their parents didn’t like or doing something their parents wouldn’t approve of. So there they sat, bruised, bloodied and battered, their childhood stolen and saying things like don’t call my mom because she’ll be mad that I was drinking.

Let your teen know you want them to call you for help. Have a conversation and let your daughter know that you want to hear from her, no matter what she has done. Let her know that nothing will keep you from loving her or should make her afraid to ask for help.

Red flags for abuse

According to a 2012 study by Bonomi et al,more than 60 percent of female and male teens are physically assaulted, usually by someone they know and trust. There are many ways teens can be abused including mentally and emotionally, physically, sexually and by stalking. I would like to share information about physical abuse. Here are a few red flags indicating your teen is dating someone who may be abusive:

Power and control

It may look like jealousy and feel flattering to your teen. Abusers may be upset if your teen dances with someone else, talks to someone else, goes somewhere without him or her or doesn’t answer calls or text messages.

Anger/emotional abuse

Abusers use put downs, name calling and mind games to make teens think they are crazy. They also use public humiliation.

Isolation

Abusers may control what your teen does using jealousy, manipulation and intimidation. Sometimes this is as simple as crying if he or she talks to someone else.

Threats and intimidation

Abusers may make and carry out threats, from small physical abuses all the way to school shootings. Monitor social media and watch for tell-tale signs that your teen is being threatened. Listen to the online chatter. Abusers may threaten suicide, if your teen leaves him or her. This is a common practice. If you hear of a threat of suicide, take it seriously. If you don’t know what to do, call a local school counselor, the teen’s family or law enforcement. Do not wait until the next day, minute or hour.

Peer pressure

Abusers may know intimate details about your teen and threaten to expose those details to friends and peers. For example, knowing that your teen has experimented with an illegal drug and threatening to tell others.

Basic safety tips

Group date

Encourage your teens and their friends to watch out for each other. Safety in numbers.

Do not take food or drink from anyone at a party

Date rape drugs are real and can be put in soda, food or alcohol. Drugged teens do not always pass out. They may walk, talk and act differently. If your teen notices a friend acting differently or waking with a loss of memory, call for help and go straight to the hospital for medical attention. Reactions to date rape drugs can be life threatening.

Stay in well-lit public places

Teens love to go off the beaten path. Stay in the light with the crowd. Often, someone offers a cigarette or alcohol if he or she will just go where no one can see. Teach your teens that this is the same as a stranger offering a child candy and is a red flag for danger. Avoid getting into bedrooms in noisy parties where no one can hear you call for help.

Know your exits

Teach teens to know where they are and to avoid getting backed into a corner and trapped. At group functions, avoid bedrooms and bathrooms where there’s only one exit.

Have an escape plan in your shoe

Put money in your teen’s shoe and make sure he or she has a cell phone. Never send your teen into the world without emergency funds and an escape route. Any cell phone, even without cell service, as long as it is charged will call 911. Keep your phone on and listen for a call.

What parents can do

Know where they are

Whenever possible know your teen’s itinerary or what his or her plans are.

Have a “Call out the troops” time

Have your teen tell you when he or she absolutely will be home. If your teen doesn’t arrive home at that time, something is terribly wrong and you should call authorities for help.

Know your teen

Wait up and check her out emotionally and physically when she returns home. She may act annoyed, but she will know that you care.

Additional Resources

Breakthecycle.org– great for teens and parents! Interactive, videos for teens

Loveisrespect.orgteen USA hotline 1-866-331-9474,online chat or text 77054 or loveis

Hotpeachpages.net is an international abuse hotline directory. Find resources in your country.

Learn more about teen dating violence, make a plan to educate your teen and begin the discussion. Open the doors for your teen to arm himself with knowledge.

Shannon Symonds

Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh