Simple steps to help teens to avoid dating violence
CASTLE ROCK – Many parents spend long nights, fretting while their teen is out, especially if they’re on a first date. Jennifer Walker with the Women's Crisis and Family Outreach Center in Castle Rock says there are some simple things teens can do to ease their parent’s worries.
“We want to have kids thinking about how do I have a safe date,” Walker explained. “For instance, going on a first date with a group of people, especially if it is someone you really don't know very well. The group date process gives you an opportunity to see who this person really is and are they going to treat me right and then you have an opportunity to get away if things aren't going very well.”
Before the date, she encourages teens to set up a “code word” with their friends, so if danger is sensed you can get out of the situation. Walker says parents can also provide a perfect excuse.
“I always told my daughter that if you want to use me to get out of doing something that you think is risky, feel free,” she said.
She also encourages people to gauge whether you’re venturing into a dangerous situation, beforehand.
“Even though we go to school with them and we may have gone to school with them since we were kindergarten, we don't know how they're going to be as a boyfriend or a girlfriend,” Walker said.
She says, if possible, learn a little bit about the guy or girl’s relationships with family and friends.
“If they are negative and mean to their siblings, their parents, or their pet or animals in general, it's a pretty good sign that they'll be mean and inappropriate with you,” Walker said.
These behaviors may just be a sign of a much larger problem that is not immediately apparent.
“What is happening in the home, and what children are exposed to in regards to how their parents resolve conflict and the power control issues that happen in those adult relationships, do get passed on to their children and then we see them in the next generation,” Walker said.
Unfortunately, even if there are “red flags,” teens sometimes take the risk.
“A lot of times, when we are younger, we get hooked into someone wants me and needs me,” Walker said.
She says the key is setting boundaries. Knowing where you “begin and end” in a relationship is important, so that you can tell someone when to stop.
“It is not that people don't cross the line. They do things and say things that hurt you. It is, if you say 'that hurts me' that they continue that behavior knowing they're hurting you. That's where that power and control piece comes in,” Walker explained.
“If you ask them to stop doing it and they continue to do it, that is a sure sign that they have absolutely no respect for you,” she added. That would be the sign that I would have to get out of here.”
Walker says most people think of the dangers of being attacked, but Walker says dating violence can be a lot more subtle. “They're not ‘I got punched in the face or raped.’ It can be very, very subtle and before you know it, something has occurred.”
She says it is important to ensure you’ve got someone you can talk to, honestly, about dating situations.
“Don't isolate yourself when things are not going well in your relationships. Talk to other people about what is going on, particularly if you need help. Maybe it is a friend that has given you good advice or support. Maybe you find a teacher or your parents. Or maybe there is someone in a group that you're involved with that you can have those conversations with, that you can make sure you are looking at those signs; whether or not your relationship is going down a scary path,” Walker said.
If a teen is involved in a situation that they believe may be dating violence, there is a 24-Hour Helpline at 303-688-8484 where they can get help.