Teens and young people can be victims of intimate partner violence and abuse, and some advocates suspect teen dating violence has increased during the pandemic.
Indianapolis Recorder editor Oseye Boyd discussed the issue with Danyette Smith, founder of Silent No More; and Lindsay Hill Stawick, associate director of the Domestic Violence Network, during a Facebook Live event Thursday night. Kamella Wolfork, an Indianapolis resident, also joined the conversation to share her personal experience with teen domestic violence.
Nearly 1 in 11 female and 1 in 14 male high school students experienced physical dating violence in the last year, according to a 2015 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That comes out to more than a million teenagers.
When the pandemic forced schools to close in 2020, children spent more time at home. That’s when calls to national and local domestic abuse hotlines skyrocketed, Hill Stawick said.
With the growing use of technology and social media among teens, Hill Stawick said she’s concerned about an emerging kind of abuse that’s becoming more common: digital abuse, which can include controlling passwords, demanding to see text messages, the exploitation of sexual images and location tracking.
“It’s when the other partner is demanding [passwords], like, ‘I have to control who you’re talking to,’” Hill Stawick said. “That’s when it starts to go down a really rough path.”
Her advice for parents: watch for signs of withdrawal.
“I hear all the time about partners trying to isolate them from their friends and family,” Hill Stawick said.
Other common signs include: unusual moodiness, nervousness or anxiety.
More than 25 percent of women and 14 percent of men first experience intimate partner violence before the age of 18, according to the CDC. For Wolfork, her brush with teen dating violence was from her high school boyfriend.
“It just went from ‘this is so sweet,’ to a slow escalation over time,” Wolfork said. “It was extremely taxing for me.”
Now, Wolfork uses recess activities to educate kids on healthy relationships. She said skills like accepting disappointment are valuable as they develop relationships — romantic or otherwise.
Smith emphasized boys can also be victims of intimate partner violence.
“I believe parents are dismissive … by not understanding that boys can be in an abusive relationship,” Smith said. “Boys can be extra ashamed to come forward.”
The panelists’ advice for teens who may be experiencing intimate partner violence is to reach out to a trusted adult, like a teacher or parent. Also, often the victim’s friends, in addition to family and teachers, can see when something is wrong. So, Smith and Hill Stawick encourage them to speak up.
- Domestic Violence Network: https://dvnconnect.org/
- Silent No More: https://www.silentnomoreinc.org/
- Love is Respect: https://www.loveisrespect.org/; text “Loveis” to 22522 to speak to a confidential advocate
This story comes from a reporting collaboration that includes the Indianapolis Recorder and Side Effects Public Media — a public health news initiative based at WFYI. Follow Carter on Twitter: @carter_barrett.