What Every Teacher Should Know About Domestic and Teen Dating Violence

What is domestic violence? What is dating violence?

As a teacher, you may see children who experience domestic violence at home, or teens who are in abusive dating relationships themselves.  Domestic and dating violence aren’t really that different. Every case is unique, but the general elements and dynamics of relationship violence are the same regardless of the situation. Relationship violence usually starts as verbal and emotional abuse, such as put downs and manipulation and usually progresses into physical and/or sexual violence. Relationship violence, whether verbal or physical, is a means of gaining power and control over the other person in the relationship.

How prevalent is teen dating violence?

According to Liz Claiborne Inc., 57% of American teens know peers who have been physically, sexually or verbally abused. A current issue in dating abuse among teens is cell phone abuse. Teens will constantly call or text their partners as a means of surveillance and control. The messages range from “checking in” constantly to sending threatening and/or explicit messages. For more information on what teen dating violence looks like, visit www.havenmt.org/get-help/resources-teens/ for healthy relationships quiz, red flags, warning signs, and coercion tactics.

What are the effects of domestic violence on kids?

Kids who have witnessed abuse at home experience many adverse effects to their development. First, child abuse and neglect is much more likely in households in which spousal abuse is present. 40-60% of men abusing women also abuse their children. Children in abusive homes are 15 times more likely to be neglected than children growing up in homes without violence. Kids from homes with domestic violence may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, slowed brain development, depression, violent behavior and anxiety, to name a few. Children of abused mothers are 6 times more likely to commit suicide and 50% more likely to use drugs/alcohol to cope with stress at home.

What can I do if a student comes to me regarding abuse, either with themselves or in their homes?

You are a mandatory reporter of child abuse, meaning if a child is being abused, you are legally obligated to notify child protective services. However, if the abuse is in the home but not directed toward the child, the child is over 18, or the student comes to you for advice or to get help for a friend, you have other options.

  • BELIEVE THEM. This is the most important thing. Many people do not come forward with abuse that has taken place because they are afraid people won’t believe them.
  • DON’T BLAME THEM. One reason people don’t come forward with abuse reports is that they think they will be blamed for the abuse. Tell the student: “It’s not your fault; you don’t deserve to be treated like that.”
  • OFFER UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT. Ask the student what you can do for them. They may just need someone to talk to or they may want your support to make the decision about what to do next. Some options for further information and confidential help in Gallatin County are: HAVEN (for domestic and dating violence) 586-4111 and The Sexual Assault Counseling Center, 586-3333. It is important to support any decision they make, even if you do not personally think it wise. Many abused people go back to their abusers for various reasons,.  The more support they have from people, including teachers, the more likely it is that they will gain the strength to eventually leave an abusive relationship for good.
  • ASK FOR HELP. If you are approached by a student or hear about a situation that sounds like teen dating violence, you are also welcome to call HAVEN confidential crisis line 586-4111 to get advice and guidance.

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