Recently my eleven year old came to me expressing concern about a friend whose parents are having trouble at home. The kind that involves throwing punches where they don’t belong. At that moment, I realized my daughter has no idea what domestic violence is, let alone dating violence. She’d never heard of it. And so the conversation began.
A story in the news over the past month really drove the unfortunate point home. 14 year old Yashanee Vaughn has been missing since March 19th. Portland Police believe her 16-year-old boyfriend, Parrish Bennette, killed her in his bed. While we don't know the circumstances of her death, it makes me wonder what could have led to this violence.
Teen dating violence happens more often than we might think. Gretchen VonHeeder runs the Teen Dating Violence program for Youth Eastside Services in Bellevue, Washington. “As many as 1 in 5 youth report being hit, slapped or pushed by someone they’re dating in a serious relationship. And 1 in 4 youth report being isolated from their friends and family,” she says. “We see it in people from all different ethnic, socio-economic, and all types of sexual identities. “
VonHeeder says it can include emotional, psychological and verbal abuse. Also, social and environmental abuse, which means one partner may control who the teen hangs out with, and isolate them from family and friends. It may involve spreading rumors and posting lies on facebook.
It’s important to talk to your kids about healthy relationships and what they look like. And make sure they know what’s not healthy too. Ask how they feel about the relationship they're in and don’t minimize their experiences. Take your teen seriously or they may not open up to you again. Von Heeder says, if you notice an imbalance of power in your teen's dating relationship it’s a definite red flag. Take notice.
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