Valentine’s Day is normally a time to celebrate happy couples, but Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan used the holiday to remind young couples in Chicago, and nationwide, about the importance of healthy relationships in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
In a statement released Monday, Madigan pointed to reports showing an increase in dating violence in the Chicago area and its prevalence around Illinois.
“When people think of domestic violence, they usually think of it as a crime between adults. But in reality, domestic violence doesn’t have a minimum age requirement. It affects people of all ages, including teenagers,” said Madigan. “We need to educate young men and women that abusive behavior in a dating relationship is always wrong.”
An estimated 19 percent of Chicago area high school students reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by their significant other, according to a 2009 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
That rate is more than double the national average (9.8%) and an increase since 2007 from 13 percent of Chicago students reporting violence in their relationship.
Statewide, almost 14 percent of teens reported violent dating behavior, according to the CDC.
Interestingly, there was little in the way of a double standard -- boys and girls reported experiencing teen dating violence in similar numbers to girls.
For parents unsure if their teen is the currently the victim of dating violence, Madigan provides these warning signs:
- Does your teen exhibit unusual or extreme moodiness or withdraw from the family?
- Has your teen stopped seeing friends or given up favorite activities?
- Is your teen spending all her time with her boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Does your teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend call very often?
- Is your teen falling behind in school?
- Is your teen afraid to break up with her boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Does your teen have unexplained injuries?
Madigan also provides helpful questions for teens who are worried their friend might be in an abusive relationship:
Does your friend’s significant other
- call them names or put them down?
- act extremely jealous when they talk to other people?
- always check up on them, calling or paging all the time?
- lose their temper, throw or break things when they’re mad?
Does your friend
- always apologize for their behavior?
- always worry about making their significant other angry?
- cancel plans at the last minute?
- give up things that used to be important to them, like friends or activities?
- have injuries they can’t explain?
Madigan encourages teens, parents and educators who witness or experience teen dating violence to reach out for help, starting with resources available on the Attorney General’s Website. The site includes warning signs, strategies and tips, as well as links to Websites created to work with youth to end the culture of violence and encourage activism to stop teen dating violence.