Dating relationships should not hurt. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, the goal of which is to raise awareness of unhealthy behavior patterns used to exert power and control over a partner. Abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional and may include checking your cell phone or email without your permission, constantly putting you down, extreme jealousy or insecurity, possessiveness, an explosive temper, mood swings and telling you what to do.
Experts say one in three students report experiencing some form of abuse, and more than two-thirds never report it to a caring adult. Dating violence can lead to less attention to academics, increased exposure to drugs and alcohol, a greater likelihood of teen pregnancy, growing isolation and sexual assault.
Often victims of abuse feel powerless to leave a relationship. Experts with the National Dating Abuse Helpline advise developing a safety plan first. Teens and 20-somethings can visit www.loveisrespect.org to ask anonymous, confidential questions and learn more about their legal rights and responsibilities.