Dating abuse (dating violence) is a silent epidemic, and myths about dating and domestic violence are still very prevalent. As a member of the media, you can help set the record straight through accurate and responsible coverage. Use the following tips to make sure your piece reports accurately on this topic and does not perpetuate myths about dating violence or the young people it impacts:
- The abuse is never the victim's fault. It may be tempting to focus on what the victim could have done to avoid abuse. It is important to remember that nothing a victim does invites or excuses abuse. There are many reasons a person stays in an abusive relationship, but liking the abuse is not one of them.
- Telling someone to "just leave" the relationship is not the answer. There are many reasons why teens and young adults stay in unhealthy relationships. For one, breaking up can be the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship. Without understanding the obstacles a young person may face and helping them through a safe separation, the situation usually gets worse, not better.
- Dating abuse happens in every type of relationship and in every community. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, male or female or non-binary, gay or straight, religious or not, confident or shy. Anyone can end up in an unhealthy relationship. Victims do not begin the relationship with "low self-esteem."
- Dating abuse isn't just physical. Emotional and sexual violence can be just as, if not more, devastating to a young person's health than physical violence. Abuse can also be verbal, financial, digital, or through stalking. Learn more about the types of abuse.
- Advising teens to fight back can be dangerous. When a person experiencing abuse violently lashes out against an abuser, the violence often escalates. The abuser may even take that moment to "prove" the violence is mutual and sometimes use it to press charges. Moreover, fighting back does not end the violence. It is much more effective to seek legal help in the form of a protection order or to make a plan for how to stay safe.
- Supporting a family member or friend who is being abused can make a huge difference. Part of an abuser's tactics is to isolate their victim. Without a supportive community, the victim finds it harder to leave the unhealthy relationship. Being a good friend, listening, and supporting the person's decisions are the best ways to show them that there are alternatives to the abusive relationship. Learn more on helping a friend here.
- Take relationships among youth seriously. Even if a person is young, their relationship still matters. By assuming teen relationships are just "puppy love" or “hooking up,” adults risk overlooking the seriousness of dating abuse. Abuse among young people can be just as destructive as abuse among adults, if not more so.
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