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Dating violence has consequences for teen victims

Midori Robinson, Kyleigh Rose and Keisha McNeill paint their hands so they can put a handprint on the “Love is Respect” mural during the Camp Zama Youth Center Teen Dating Violence Awareness Lock-In at Camp Zama. (U.S. Army photo by Winifred Brown) From left, Midori Robinson, Kyleigh Rose and Keisha McNeill paint their hands so they can put a handprint on the “Love is Respect” mural during the Camp Zama Youth Center Teen Dating Violence Awareness Lock-In at Camp Zama. (U.S. Army photo by Winifred Brown)

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Such violence can be physical, emotional, or sexual. It can happen in person or online. In all cases, teen dating violence puts great strain on families, including those in the military. To combat it, many resources and strategies are available to military parents.

Nearly 1 in 11 female and about 1 in 15 male high school students reported physical dating violence in the last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey and the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. For sexual dating violence, about 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students reported incidents in the last year.

Dating violence affects millions of U.S. teens. CDC figures show that about 11 million women and 5 million men who reported dating violence in their lifetime said they first experienced such incidents before the age of 18. These episodes included sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner.

Teen dating violence has potential long-term effects. The CDC says depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts are more likely among victims. There’s also greater risk of using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Those who suffered dating violence in high school are at greater risk of being victimized later.

Military parents have access to information, resources, and strategies to help their teens. Parents can speak with a Family Advocacy Program or FAP representative. FAP reps can be found at an Army Community Services Center, Navy Fleet and Family Readiness Center, Airman and Family Readiness Office, or Marine or Family Programs Office.

FAP reps can counsel parents and victims. They can also provide training on the warning signs of teen dating violence and assist inside schools, if needed, said Jenny Marsh, an FAP representative at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Virginia. And, Marsh said, an FAP rep can discuss with military parents ways to remove victims from harmful situations.

The Total Force Fitness framework is another way to strengthen service families and help prevent teen dating violence. The framework encourages service members to look at fitness of the mind, body, and spirit as a package to stay ready and resilient.

“For service families, attaining and maintaining the social domain of the military’s Total Force Fitness framework can help prevent teen dating violence,” said USPHS Capt. Kimberly Elenberg. “That’s because it calls for strengthening relationships and developing influential peer-to-peer networks.” Elenberg also serves as director of the Total Force Fitness branch.

The TFF description of social fitness says it helps military families focus on “strong and productive personal and professional relationships.” The goal is to create a structure of family, friends, and peers that can be relied on.

For more information about preventing teen dating violence, visit the CDC website or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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