When I was offered the opportunity to write about teen domestic violence and emotional abuse, I jumped at the chance. Mainly because when I was younger I experienced something similar and it was only until recently that I discovered it was emotional abuse. I guess my naivety at the time is what caused me to miss the signs and let it carry on for so long. Now I’m wondering how many teenage girls and boys also experience this problem and if there is anything to really help them to understand it or find a way out.
While researching this topic I came across the NSPCC ‘Partner Exploitation and Violence in Teenage Intimate Relationships’ study from September 2009. Both girls and boys were asked about their experiences in their relationships (sample number was 1,353) The first statistic that stood out to me was ‘Girls aged 13-15 were just as likely as girls aged 16+ to experience violence in a relationship’. Boys also minimised their own use of violence as ‘messing around’ while boys who personally experienced an abusive partner claimed it hardly had an effect on them ‘apart from making them annoyed’. In stark contrast girls claimed it had a ‘highly detrimental’ impact on them. This clearly highlights a gender divide in attitudes towards abuse.
Interviews were also conducted, during which many girls admitted they were too scared of what their partner’s reaction would be to challenge their behaviour and issues of self-blame proved prominent. Boys and Girls were also more likely to keep their experiences of emotional and physical violence to themselves, or tell a friend; only a minority informed an adult.
When I tried to find an online source of help, I failed to find anything relevant that would appeal to people of a young age which clearly highlights an issue; where can young people go for support? Not only that but in terms of education how many schools are really teaching students about healthy relationships in terms of what is and isn’t acceptable? There is also a clear lack of awareness about the subject; which the media play a role in. Their focus is always on physical abuse… but what about emotional abuse? Not many people recognise emotional abuse as an issue but it is something that young people are highly likely to experience. This lack of information may lead to more young people experiencing this type of abuse, yet they are unaware that it is wrong and that they shouldn’t have to go through it. The statistics that exist demonstrate the growth of this issue, but they are not being shared with the people who really need to know about it.
Young people need to be educated more about relationships and emotional/physical violence as it is a growing issue. According to the British Crime Survey, teenage girls are the most at risk of domestic abuse of any age group. Also while the focus seems to be mainly aimed towards girls, I think boys need to be approached in terms of challenging their behaviour and also encouraging them to speak up if they encounter it themselves. In my opinion, many boys refuse to admit to experiencing something which they believe takes something away from their masculinity.
Not only do I propose more education in schools but also an online base, where young people can find out information and ask anonymous questions so that they are receiving extra support outside of school. People regularly assume that teenagers not being nice to other teenagers is a natural occurrence, but a line clearly needs to be created to determine what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Written by Editorial Team Member Holly Whittaker