May is the National Teen Self-Esteem Month established to create awareness about the negative effects poor self-esteem causes among the teen population. During this month, parents and guardians are encouraged to act as positive role models, help stop negative self-images, and improve confidence and security among adolescents.
Many adolescents and young adults in America struggle with negative self-images and low self-esteem, which may affect several aspects of their daily lives. Evidence shows that negative self-esteem hinders learning abilities and also increases the risk to develop eating disorders, drug abuse, and suicidal thoughts. A negative self-image is also often a characteristic among adolescents involved in teen dating violence. This behavior has been shown to be more common among high school students than previously thought.
Males with low self-esteem are more likely to become perpetrators of dating violence, while females with low self-esteem often become victims. Other risk factors include alcohol and drug use, depression, violent peers, learning difficulties, lack of parental supervision and support, and previous exposure to violence in the home or in the community.
One in five teens involved in a serious relationship report experiencing some form of physical abuse, and one in four teenage girls say they were pressured by their partner to engage in sexual activities against their will. Dating violence may also include verbal and emotional abuse, and more than a quarter of adolescent girls report continuous verbal abuse from their partner. As technology develops, controlling behavior through text messaging is also becoming an increasing issue in teen relationships. About 30 percent report being text messaged up to 30 times per hour from partners asking where they are, with whom, and what they are doing.
These types of violent and controlling behaviors may cause both long-term and short-term consequences among victims, including poor school performance, physical fighting, binge drinking, and suicide attempts. Victims also risk bringing patterns of violence into future relationships.
The Hubbard House Relationship Abuse Prevention program (RAP) is one of several programs established to prevent teen dating violence. RAP reaches out to middle and high schools in Duval County, offering students education about dating violence and providing techniques for healthy non-violent conflict solving. The goal of RAP is to motivate teens to change their attitudes and behaviors toward abuse and violence within relationships in order to prevent future dating violence.
To increase the effect of prevention strategies, however, it is important for teens, families, organizations, and communities to work together to stop teen dating violence. National Teen Self-Esteem Month is a great opportunity for everyone to get involved in helping develop a safer environment for teens.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship please call the Hubbard House domestic violence hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or 904-314-3114.
ABOUT HUBBARD HOUSE
Hubbard House is a nationally recognized leader in domestic violence intervention. Founded in 1976, Hubbard House is a certified, comprehensive domestic violence center providing programs and services to more than 5,000 women, children and men annually in Duval and Baker counties. While Hubbard House is most known for its emergency shelter, the agency also provides extensive adult and youth outreach services, school-based education, therapeutic child care, batterers’ intervention programs, court advocacy and volunteer and community education opportunities. Visit www.hubbardhouse.org to learn more.
By Vicky Krook