Teen dating violence: Here are red flags to watch out for as a parent, friend, family member

Parents often unaware 1 in 3 adolescents suffer some kind of dating abuse

SAN ANTONIO – People of all ages will be celebrating Valentines Day on Thursday. However, relationships aren't always chocolates and roses, an important reminder for teenagers.

Teen dating violence is an often ignored category of abuse because many people don't know it's happening.

"At that age, your peers are your world. There's a shift of, 'I want the people around me to think very highly of me.' Also, they don't want to get in trouble. They don't want to get anyone else in trouble, so talking about abuse can be really difficult," said Dolores Villanueva, a counselor with the Bexar County Family Justice Center.

Villanueva said strong communication can be lifesaving.

Loveisrespect.org reports one in three U.S. adolescents is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. The organization also reports that 81 percent of parents don't know this is a problem. It's something Villanueva hears often.

"They just don't know. Parents, if your teen comes to you, or one of your young adults comes to you, and they open up about that, that took so much courage. Meet them with understanding and support. Try not to be judgmental or place any blame," Villanueva said.

To get out ahead of the issue, look for red flags in your teen when they're in a relationship:

  • Acting withdrawn, depressed or anxious

  • Changes in activities

  • Incessantly checking in with partner

  • Overly self-critical, insecure

  • Secretive

  • Apologetic for partner's negative actions

"'I notice your partner is really jealous and not in a healthy way,' or things like the teen has to check in or even ask permission, or they notice that the partner gets angry and frustrated really easily," Villanueva said.

Only 33 percent of teens report dating abuse, according to Loveisrespect.org, so going to teens with concerns could make the difference.

If a parent, friend or family member needs help approaching a teen, they can always talk to staff at the Bexar County Family Justice Center, a single stop for domestic violence victims and their families.

KSAT has more information with a list of resources on our domestic violence page. On that page, you'll also find a place to submit your questions and read other stories from our "Loving in Fear" series.  

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