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Teen dating violence

It was love at first sight for Mercy*. He was 17, tall, handsome and popular with everyone in school. On the evening that he first spoke to her, he had just won the school’s math contest and she couldn’t help but feel proud of the guy who she would later call her boyfriend. Three months into their relationship however, her pride was slowly turning into pain and fear. John* had changed and she couldn’t understand why. He was spending less time with her, he seemed perpetually irritable and he had called her offensive names on a number of occasions. Her worst fears were confirmed when one afternoon, after a stressful movie date, he grabbed and twisted her wrist so hard she thought it would break. Her crime? She had asked him to take her home in time for her curfew. He wanted to go and have sex with her at his friend’s place instead. This was overwhelming for a 16-year-old. She couldn’t talk to her parents about her situation. They were busy with work. She didn’t want to snitch to her teachers either as she feared being unpopular with her peers. Her friends didn’t believe her either because John had this likable exterior that often masked his dark side.

But she wasn’t alone. Matt* her former desk mate had fallen in love with a girl from his neighbourhood. Sharon* was of average looks but had the confidence of a lioness. She was loud and audacious, qualities that the 18-year-old Matt, found endearing. But it was not always rosy for Matt. Sharon was verbally abusive especially when he failed to meet one of her outrageous demands. One time when Matt refused to do her school project for her, she threatened to tell the members of her girls group that Matt was a terrible kisser. On another occasion, she slapped Matt on the face in the presence of his friends.

Teen Dating Violence is a type of intimate partner violence that occurs within a dating relationship amongst adolescents. This violence can be in the form of;

  • Physical violence is when your partner hurts or tries to hurt you by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence when your partner is forcing or attempting to force you to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when you have not or cannot consent.
  • Psychological/ emotional aggression where your partner uses verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm you mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over you.
  • Stalking when you partner develops a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact that causes you to be afraid and concern for your safety.
  • Teen Dating violence can also take place in person or electronically, such as repeated texting or posting sexual pictures of a partner online without their consent.

Many teenagers find it normal to call each other derogatory names or to playfully push and shove each other over small disagreements. These behaviours can however become abusive and develop into serious forms of violence. Adolescence who experience teen dating violence are likely to act out and take unnecessary risks with their health and safety. They are also more likely to experience depression or think about or attempt suicide

Further, unhealthy relationship patterns can start early in life and last for a lifetime. Left unchecked, a partner that is a victim as a teenager may continue to choose abusive partners as an adult. An abusive teenager may continue to be abuse his or her partners in adult relationships. The results are often a cycle of despair in relationships and in worst cases increased incidences of homicide and femicide a have become common in across the country.

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