Tuesday, Feb. 11 was #WearOrangeDay, a day meant to bring attention to Teen Dating Violence. Taking place just ahead of Valentines Day, early February is a perfect time to reflect on the health of romantic relationships. Dating violence seems to be a taboo topic, yet it is important for us to have open and honest discussions about what it looks like.
Although dating violence is not often discussed, it takes place at alarmingly high rates, especially in relationships amongst young people. According to Break the Cycle, 43 percent of college women report experiencing abusive behaviors in relationships, and over one in five women report physical abuse or threats of it. Additionally, women ages 16-24 are most affected by dating violence. On many college campuses, and elsewhere, there is a misunderstanding of what dating violence looks like. For example, many assume that dating violence is only physical and because of this do not report other forms of abuse; the Washington Post reports that this is such a pertinent issue that the New York Office for the Prevention of Abuse has begun an initiative to spread awareness that this is not the case: abuse is #notjustphysical.
GRAPHIC COURTESY OF FOREST COUNTY
Another harmful assumption that the Washington Post reports on is that if a survivor of abuse does not leave a relationship, then they are not being harmed in it. This is untrue—sometimes victims are coerced into believing their relationships are healthy, or it is unsafe for them to leave the relationship. Each case is individual and abuse affects people in different ways. There are more untrue assumptions, such as only women are affected by dating abuse, that it is only a problem for poor and uneducated people and many more. It is important to educate ourselves on potential signs of this abuse so that we can recognize it in our or our friends’ relationships.
Even though the statistics show that it is a problem that many students face in college, dating violence is something we shy away from talking about. Movements for awareness such as Wear Orange Day are important to start discussions about dating abuse in places where it is common, such as college campuses. A lack of education perpetuates the myths discussed earlier in this article and more. Furthermore, it hinders young people from understanding when they are in these harmful relationships and being empowered to take action. Some red flags of dating abuse, according to Break the Cycle, are constant belittling, possessiveness, the pressure to have sex, isolation and mood swings. If you think you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, there are many resources available. On campus, some confidential resources are the counseling center, the Title IX Office or the Chaplain. Off campus, there are many organizations meant to help survivors, such as JBWS in Morristown, or you can call The National Dating Abuse Helpline at (1.866.331.9474) or look on websites such as Love is Respect or Break the Cycle.