Statistics from the CDC suggest that dating violence among teens is at epidemic levels. A 2013 survey of violence among teens found that approximately 10% of high school students reported physical victimization and 10% reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months before they were surveyed. A survey completed in 2011 found that 23% of females and 14% of males who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age. The CDC defines teen dating violence as “the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.” Other terms used to describe dating violence include relationship abuse, intimate partner violence, relationship violence, dating abuse, domestic abuse, and domestic violence. Sadly, as most mental health professionals know, many teens do not report dating violence to their friends or family out of fear. We also know that dating violence is more widespread than most people (including parents) believe and has serious long-term and short-term effects. Teens subjected to dating violence may experience depression and anxiety, begin engaging in unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco, drug, or alcohol use, become involved in antisocial activities, and have thoughts of suicide. And, as noted above, victims of teen violence are at higher risk in the future for victimization.
It is important for parents, teachers, counselors, and others to teach adolescents to protect themselves against dating violence as much as possible. Teens need to learn to appropriately communicate uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy. Teens need to be encouraged to treat others with respect and expect the same for themselves. Adults should be alert for risk factors associated with dating violence. These include a belief that dating violence is acceptable, the presence of anxiety, depression, or a history of trauma, aggressive behavior, use of illegal drugs, early sexual activity and multiple sexual partners, having a friend involved in dating violence, conflicts with a partner, and being a witness or experiencing violence in the home.
We have recently discovered an excellent resource that will contribute to the education of girls at risk for dating violence – a card game titled Jerky Johnny. Jerky Johnny teaches girls to recognize the signs of a dangerous person and to teaches them that they have a voice. This wonderful card game may be played by girls 12 and older. It can be used by girls alone, and by parents, teachers, counselors, and mental health professionals. It was designed by a mother, Dara Connolly, who is also a professional self-defense instructor. Jerky Johnny is an excellent tool for promoting conversation, awareness, and assertiveness. After reviewing the cards, It seems to me that this might also be an excellent resource for building awareness among boys, and is a great conversation starter.