A little more than three years ago I wore my new high heel boots to my then boyfriend’s house to go spend my Friday night with him. A few hours later I sprinted out of his house and hopped the fence into my parents' car, and I never looked back. I was 16 years old and had spent the last nine months in an abusive relationship.
February is teen dating violence awareness month. The statistics for dating violence among teenagers and young adults in their twenties are unfathomable. According to Love is Respect, one in three teens in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse by their partner. In a single year in the United States, 1.5 million high school students are victims of physical abuse.
Valentine's Day is advertised as a day where you and your significant other go and spend a romantic evening. He buys you flowers and takes you to dinner or to a movie and all that. However, Valentine’s Day isn’t limited to what advertisers and movies want it to be. Valentine’s Day can also be about loving yourself. Taking the time to remind yourself you deserve to be happy and to be in a healthy relationship and knowing that you deserve to be treated with respect.
I can’t honestly tell you why I called my parents that night. I was only 16 years old, I was scared, and I didn’t know what to do. I honestly didn’t ever think about the fact I was being abused until after. At the time, I didn’t know about any girl my age going through this. It wasn’t even protected under Kentucky state law.
We see athletes recognizing domestic violence and we see movie stars and actors recognizing sexual assault and harassment. But we miss a whole group of people who barely have a voice. Dating violence is not the same as domestic violence. We show these images of married couples, and couples who live together, as examples. But we don’t show teenagers and what it can look like for someone at a young age. We don’t talk about it because it makes some feel uncomfortable or people think that teenagers and young adults are too sensitive.
Well, I can tell you that I felt more uncomfortable being abused than you are hearing my story.
For more information on teen dating violence or to chat with an expert anonymously, go to loveisrespect.org.