Valentine's Day hype can fuel youth dating violence
It starts at an early age. In daycares and kindergartens, when children exchange valentines, the message is one of warmth and friendship. However, as children get older, the romantic hype surrounding Valentine's Day reinforces their belief that having an intimate relationship is critically important-even if that relationship is abusive.
"Our culture starts laying the groundwork at a very early age to convince young people that romantic love is all-important. However, we often neglect to teach young people what's healthy and what isn't in romance," says Judi Fairholm, National Manager for RespectED.
Recent studies suggest as many as 25% of teens will experience violence in a dating relationship before they reach adulthood. Even among young teens, relationships are affected by physical, sexual and psychological abuse, including threats of death or reprisals, damage to reputation, and harassment after separation. For some, unhealthy relationships in adolescence will establish a lifelong pattern of accepting violence. And for a few, this violence will escalate, resulting in an early, tragic death.
Fairholm says part of the reason dating violence flourishes among young people is that they misunderstand what violent behaviour means. Even the seemingly benign "Be Mine" is a problematic message. "Too many young people think that possessiveness is a sign of intense passion and devotion-even when it leads to controlling behavior, jealousy and rage that can precipitate violence." Fairholm adds that one in four young victims misinterpret the violence they experience as a sign of love.
Parents and other adults can help youth stay safe by paying attention to warning signs and teaching youth what to watch for. (Click here for parents tips).
RespectED, the Canadian Red Cross service that focuses on the prevention of abuse and violence, offers a prevention program for youth called What's Love Got to Do With It? through schools. The program helps young people overcome myths, misconceptions and stereotypes, and develop healthier expectations for romance. Parents and adults who work with youth can also learn more about dangerous adolescent dating relationships through a RespectED workshop called Not Just Puppy Love.
"As a society, we have to work harder to help young people develop healthier lifelong relationship patterns," says Fairholm. "We can't just teach children about passion and romance, we have to teach them about respect."
For more information or to arrange an interview, contact:
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