“This is happening in silence.”
That’s how Stephanie Francis, the Director of Education Training and Engagement in domestic violence at Interact in Raleigh described our country’s teen dating violence problem to reporters from ABC 11. Recent studies from Interact in Raleigh estimate that one in three adolescents is a victim of some type of violence from someone they share a romantic relationship with. Experts believe that a great many more incidents go unreported.
North Carolina law enforcement officials have turned their attention to teen dating violence crimes after a particularly devestating incident earlier this year. According to ABC reporters, 17-year-old Kelton Fox was charged with first-degree murder for killing his former girlfriend, Tierra Hall.
North Carolina law officials and advocates are urging parents across the state to speak with their children about teen dating violence and keep an eye open for early warning signs. There are several signs that could indicate your child or teen may be involved in an abusive relationship, including:
Dating someone significantly younger. If your teen is dating someone three or more years younger than him or herself, then there is an increased risk of issues with statutory rape and forced sex arising.
Aggressive behavior. Youth who perpetrate teen dating violence may demonstrate aggressive behavior in other areas of their lives. Aggressive behaviors that serve as warning signs of violent tendencies include punching walls, banging fists, and throwing items when angry. Youth with violent tendencies may also frequently start fights, hurt animals, or brag about hurting or being mean to others.
Mood swings. Mood swings are a common warning sign of aggressive tendencies in teens. If your teen frequently loses his or her temper and is unable to control outbursts, this may suggest he or she is at risk of perpetuating dating violence.
Threatening harm. Teens who perpetuate domestic violence often threaten to hurt themselves or their partner in the event of a breakup.
Jealousy. If your teen frequently acts jealous or accuses his or her partner of being unfaithful or lying, this could be a warning sign of violent tendencies.
Excessive texting. Pay extra attention if start to you notice that your child is constantly texting, calling, or messaging his or her partner online—especially if such exchanges frequently occur late at night.
Substance abuse. Teens who abuse alcohol and drugs are at higher risk of dating violence perpetration. Strong evidence links alcohol use to physical, psychological, and sexual aggression against partners for both adults and teens.
Prior exposure. Exposure to domestic violence as a child has been linked with perpetration of dating violence—particularly among males. If your child was a victim of or witnessed domestic abuse, he or she may have a high risk of becoming a perpetrator of domestic violence.
If you believe your teen may be at risk of becoming a perpetrator of domestic violence, the time to intervene is now. Talk to your teen about the serious lifelong consequences that come with a teen dating violence conviction, and seek guidance for you and your teen from a counselor or youth worker.
If your child has already been accused or charged with teen dating violence, you should consult with an experienced domestic violence lawyer. In North Carolina, teen dating violence is considered to be a form of domestic violence, and your teen may be facing serious criminal penalties. A lawyer will be able to help you protect your teen’s future and freedom by putting you in the best position possible to have the charges reduced or dropped.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.