Teen Dating Violence: An Advocate’s Perspective
By Kaelyn Crede
A teen may want to be known as an athlete, an artist, a dancer or any number of things. But the last thing they want to be known for is being a victim of partner violence. Unfortunately, male and female adolescents are both at risk of experiencing dating violence, whether as aggressors, victims, or both. However, when it comes to teens and dating violence, many officials do not give this issue or the youth involved the respect they deserve. Advocates hear people lessen the importance of abuse between teens because they don’t see the severity or urgency. I have even heard judges and other professionals say that behavior consistent with teen dating violence is part of adolescence, and a normal part of growing up. I am grateful for advocates and community members that understand the risks of teen dating violence and educate their communities about the basic right that every person should feel safe.
Teen violence should not be ignored or minimized. Violence between teens can be just as pervasive, severe, and lethal as that between adults. Loveisrespect.org’s 2015 state report states that victims between the ages of 15 and 18 represent almost 30% of the total number of victims here in Nevada. The Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCEDSV) has collected statistics over the years from domestic violence advocacy programs across the state, which show that the number of teens who have contacted local programs in Nevada has almost doubled since 2013. That does not include the number of teens in abusive relationships who are still too scared to come forward. Teens are highly social, particularly in interpersonal relationships with their peers. Thus, a teen may not want to disclose abuse against a fellow classmate. If a teen does disclose, his/her peers may be less than supportive, particularly if the abusing party is a mutual friend. Likewise, disclosing to friends may be problematic, but disclosing to parents may be out of the question, particularly if the teen was prohibited from dating in the first place.
All this inspires me to advocate the reality about teen dating violence. What teens go through today is setting the foundation for their future. By sending the message that a teenager’s safety and well-being are important, we create a generation of informed, resilient citizens. We also send the message to professionals that we cannot push teens aside by saying that abuse and violence are just a part of adolescence. Teens in need of help can speak to a trained peer advocate by calling loveisrespect.org at 1-866-331-9474, or texting loveis to 22522. Peer advocates can connect teens to local resources, provide helpful websites, help create a plan to stay safe, or just listen to concerns.
Kaelyn Crede is a Communications Specialist at the NCEDSV in the Las Vegas office. The NCEDSV is working towards the elimination of domestic and sexual violence throughout the state. The NCEDSV provides education and support to over 15 programs throughout Nevada that directly handle domestic and sexual violence incidents. Though NCEDSV does not provide direct shelter or crisis services, our member programs are available to help. You can receive assistance through the National Domestic Violence hotline (800-799-7233), the National Sexual Assault hotline (800-799-7233), or you can visit NCEDSV’s website www.ncedsv.org/need-help to find services throughout Nevada.