February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Take a moment to fully absorb those words. Most of us are aware of domestic violence and child abuse, but how much do we know about violence in teen relationships?

Almost seven years ago, Yeardley Love was a student at the University of Virginia. At 22, she was in a relationship with a young man. No one could have imagined how their story would end. Her parents, who had never experienced domestic violence in their own lives, were “naive,” as her mother puts it, and had no idea what was going on between their daughter and her boyfriend. 

Love and her boyfriend, George Huguely got into an argument at her off-campus apartment and he attacked and killed her. After being found guilty of second-degree murder, Huguely was sentenced to life in prison. Love’s friends and mother had all seen saw signs that something wasn’t right in the relationship, but no one connected the dots. If they had a better understanding of this serious issue, Love might be alive today.

Recognize Warning Signs

It turns out that one in three high school students experience some form of dating violence. Every adult should become familiar with warning signs so we can help keep our children safe.

According to BreaktheCycle.org, these are some things to watch for:

  • A partner who checks cell phones, emails, or social networks without permission
  • Unexplained marks or bruises
  • Depression
  • A partner who expresses extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Constant belittling or put-downs by a partner
  • Explosive temper or/and erratic mood swings 
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • A partner who makes false accusations
  • A partner who inflicts pain of any type, including verbal abuse
  • A partner who is a extremely possessive and tells the other what to do
  • A partner who pressures for frequent sex

You can find additional tips and information at loveisrespect.org

Educate Your Children

Once you gather information about teen dating violence, discuss the issue with your teen. Don’t have this conversation in passing. Instead, put away any devices and convey the message that this is a serious topic that deserves both of your undivided attention. Make sure you leave enough time for your child to ask questions or talk about any concerns. 

Take Action

There are many ways you can do your part to prevent teen dating violence.  Do some research and share stories and other resources on social media. Encourage your child’s school to inform students about the realities and dangers of violence in relationships. Volunteer money and/or time to your local domestic abuse hotline or shelter. 

This problem is too prevalent and serious for us to ignore. If we all band together, we can save lives while encouraging our children to learn to recognize the difference between a healthy, loving relationship and abuse.