In 2010, the US Senate expanded a previously established observance of “National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week” under S. Res 710 to declare February as “National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month”.

 If you’ve never heard the term “dating violence”, you’re not alone. According to LoveIsRespect.org, almost 81% of the population has never heard of, or aren’t intimately familiar with the term “dating violence”.  

Statistics also show that nearly one in three teenagers and almost 94 out of 100 adults have all experienced dating violence of some kind during their life, even if they haven’t recognized it as such. Dating violence, while very similar to domestic violence, differs in its likelihood of occurrence and its presentation, occurring most frequently in relationships where the ages are between ages 16 to 24. 

In fact, national statistics show that people in relationships experiencing dating violence between ages 16 to 24 at triple the national average rate.

But what is dating violence? According to Megan Owens, Administrative Assistant at June N. Jenkins Women’s Shelter in DeRidder, LA, dating violence is “a pattern of controlling behaviors that one person uses against another in order to gain and/or maintain power and control in a relationship.” 

Dating violence differs from domestic violence only by semantical definition where domestic violence is defined as “violence that occurs when a couple lives together”. 

Some of the most common red flags to be aware of to identify dating violence in relationships is isolation, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, threats, intimidation, stalking, and the use of social media in a controlling manner.

 When asked about the influence social media has in abusive relationships, Owens tells Beauregard Daily News, “Social media hasn’t created anything new in abusers or relationships. It has only highlighted abusers and their need for control in the relationship. It becomes normal for a boy or a girl to tell their partner that they don’t want the other person to be friends with a certain someone on Facebook, or they don’t want their partner to like a certain person’s picture on Instagram. All of that loops back around to the need for control and isolating someone from their friends of families. Some common occurrences using social media as a control mechanism is requiring a partner to send a picture or a text with what they are doing, or what they’re wearing, or just the general need to know every single move that person is making. Again, social media hasn’t created a new problem, but it certainly has highlighted the way we can identify these red flags in our partners.”

Regarding red flags, Owens says that parents are the front-line of defense against dating violence in adolescents and encourages parents to reach out for support and education in recognizing red flags. 

“It’s a very hard thing to do, but sometimes those red flags are occurring in us and we have to take self-inventory with how we treat our partners or how we teach our children to treat their partners,” Owens says. Owens also notes that sex and intimacy levels in a relationship play a huge role in teen relationships regarding what some teens may not be willing to report when they’re being abused.

 In Beauregard Parish alone, June N. Jenkins Women’s Shelter received 194 calls reporting domestic or dating violence and the shelter serviced over 350 people just in 2019. 

“Those numbers prove that the conversation about abuse needs to happen between parents and their kids. It’s so important to teach our children what abuse is and that love should never make you uncomfortable in any way,” Owens adds. 

The advocates at June N. Jenkins Women’s Shelter hope to be able to equip teens, parents, and the public as a whole to recognize the red flags early and “cut the source of abuse off at the root”. 

“It can be extremely difficult to have hard conversations about abuse with your loved ones, and if you’re not sure how to go about it, call us,” Owens says. 

June N. Jenkins Women’s Shelter offers a variety of services including a residential shelter that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, legal advocacy, parenting programs, children’s services, crisis hotline, support groups, and community outreach through the schools. 

Owens strongly encourages teachers, principals, students, and parents to reach out to the shelter to schedule a time to talk about dating violence even if it’s not during the month of February. All the services June N. Jenkins Women’s Shelter offers are free and the shelter, which can be reached at (337) 462-6504 or toll-free through the hotline (888) 411-1333, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

For more information about dating violence, domestic violence, or any other services, please contact June N. Jenkins Women’s Shelter. 

They can also be found on Facebook at facebook.com/junenjenkinswomensshelter.