Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Teen Dating Violence: More Than Teenage Drama

— February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Teen dating violence is reported as extremely common and starts as early as 11 years old.

The question is how parents should recognize the signs and not just dismiss it as teen drama.

According to LoveisRespect.org, 1 in 3 teens will experience dating violence. According to the CDC, 23 percent of girls and 14 percent of boys will experience dating violence for the first time between 11 and 17 years old.

The data includes physical, mental and emotional abuse.

Kaylah Harris was 18 when she first experienced dating violence. She had a hair appointment and didn’t want to be late, so she decided to go, leaving the behind the boyfriend who was supposed to go with her, but was running behind.

“He called me was like, ‘where are you?’ And I told him ‘I left, I didn’t want to miss my hair appointment waiting on you.’ And he was like, ‘you’re stupid.’ He called me a bitch,” she said.

That was the first time. She said she took a break from him for a few days, but they got back together.

The yelling, the threatening text messages, the hitting went on for months. Then one night she was scared for her life.

“He slammed me on the ground and was like get in the car,” Harris said. “He snatched the phone, and he started hitting me.”

Harris lived to tell her story, but 15-year-old Danielle Locklear died after her ex-boyfriend, Je’Michael Malloy, strangled her and tied weights to her body before dumping her in water. Tierra Hall, 17, was stabbed to death by her ex-boyfriend and left behind and abandoned building in Durham.

Harris’s mother said her daughter witnessed control and arguing growing up, and that’s perhaps why she didn’t speak up sooner.

“So Kayla has always grown up seeing us argue and fight and the name-calling, which I felt like that’s why her antenna’s weren’t up,” Shameka Michelle said.

Shereka Dunston with the Durham Crisis Response Center said parents can make a difference in protecting their children.

“It’s really important for parents to talk to their kids honestly and have conversations. So if you see something like your child has an anger problem. If you see it early, talk about it early,” she said.

Teens who go through dating violence are at risk for some huge consequences like suicide, suicidal attempts, depression, drug abuse, risky sexual behaviors and academic failure.

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