Did you know that Febuary is teen-dating violence awarness month? If you are in or have been in a relationship, stop to ask yourself a few quick questions. Does your partner call you bad names and use words to put you down? Does your partner look at you in a way that scares you? Does your partner control your actions, tell you who you can associate with, or even where you go? Does your partner act extremely jealous and possessive? Does your partner physically hurt you in any way? Does your partner act like the abuse is no big deal, it is your fault, or deny doing it?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you have been a victim of an abusive relationship. 1 in 3 teenage girls from the ages 16 to 24 will be in an abusive relationship. February is the national teen-dating violence awareness month; Simply knowing the signs of an abusive relationship can help you or a friend avoid abusive situations and even avoid saying “Me Too.”

What is dating violence? Dating violence is a pattern of violent behavior that is used against a partner. While dating violence is primarily associated with physical violence, abuse is not confined to physical violence. There are five different types of abuse: physical, verbal or emotional, digital, sexual, and spiritual violence.

How do I protect myself from falling into any of the circumstances of abuse? You can prevent yourself or a loved one from being in an abusive relationship by recognizing abusive behavior.  Abusive partners act very manipulative. They may insist that you are a bad person, try to lower your self-worth by regarding you as worthless, or even insist that the abuse is your fault.

Abusive partners are also more inclined to act in a very threatening manner. Types of threats can range from threatening to break up with you, to hurt you, your family, or your pets, to destroy your property, or even threaten you with weapons.

Controlling behavior is one of the most abusive types of conduct and is very commonly seen on social media. While it may seem like no big deal, if your partner excessively texts or calls you and frequently checks your phone and social media without your permission, they are being controlling. Many partners will become extremely jealous and begin to prevent you from seeing or talking to certain friends and even family members.

If you have recognized any of the signs of an abusive relationship in any of your partner’s actions, the most important thing to do is to get help. If you ever feel that you are in urgent danger, call 911 immediately. Physical abuse ranges anywhere from a shove, slap, or hit, to causing injury or death.

The next step to getting out of an abusive relationship is to change your phone number, your social media passwords, and to block the abuser from any form of contacting you. Inform your friends, family members, or even your school principal, counselor, or a teacher of your situation. If you are too scared to get out of the relationship by yourself, your friends, family members, or trusted adults can help you escape harm. The more people that are watching out for you, the safer you are.

Minimize your alone time following the break up. Activities as simple as independently walking to your car only makes you more vulnerable to the abuser and could potentially lead you to harm. Have someone to walk with you to your car or even develop a carpool system with a friend or a family member; it is very wise to develop a safety plan with your family when you are not around them, and if you entirely unsafe after following these steps, contact your local authorities. By identifying your abuser and providing evidence of the abuse, he or she could be fined and possibly put behind bars.

If you think your friend is in an abusive relationship, communicate with your friend that he or she is not alone, and that you support them. Give your friend a safe space to talk about his or her experiences; An open line of communication with this person is key. Make sure to listen without judgement and never tell your friend the abuse was their fault, they may be experiencing feelings of responsibility, fear, or shame in regards to the abuse. The best way you can help a friend in an abusive relationship is to encourage them to get help.

Genesis Women’s Shelter is an abuse shelter and resource available for teens, as well as adults, locally in Dallas. Genesis offers a variety of different ways to seek help, such as counseling and safety planning for teens experiencing dating abuse. They also have a chat line that is open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Call (214) 946-HELP (4357) for free and confidential support, offered in English and Spanish.

1 in 3 teenage girls will be in an abusive relationship. Our mission is to fundraise for Genesis Women’s Shelter, to help raise awareness for teen-dating abuse, and of course, to Make 1 in 3 Zero.

As February comes to a close, remind yourself that you are not alone, there is always help, and that no seriously means no. By knowing the signs of abuse and how to escape abusive situations, we are one more step along the path of Making 1 in 3 Zero. 

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XOXO, Grace and Angelina