UTAH (ABC4) – Domestic violence advocates say it’s important for parents to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships with their teens early on. They say the best thing parents can do to show their teens they are there for them is to create a safe space where they can seek help and be listened to without feeling judged.
“We need to have these conversations because these stories, whether it’s teens or adults, are on the news far too often,” says Brooke Muir, the Executive Director of Fight Against Domestic Violence.
Advocates say teen domestic violence is a serious issue and it can come in many forms.
“Self-reported, teens are reporting it’s approximately 1 in 3 teens who have self-identified that they have experienced physical, sexual, emotional, digital stalking abuse in a romantic relationship,” said Kimmi Wolf, the Communications and Engagement Specialist with Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.
Wolf says that prevention is key – and part of that is a strong support group of parents, trusted adults and peers.
“We need to acknowledge the power of positive peer support and that power,” said Wolf. “I think teens are gonna listen to other teens. If we can get more young people to be advocates, to be outspoken about this manner, I think that will go a very long way.”
Advocates emphasize the importance of being an active listener and asking how to help.
“If someone does confide in you, you want to make sure you’ve made yourself a safe space, saying ‘I am so sorry that has happened to you’ without judging them, ask them how you can help them and how you can connect them with those that can provide really professional help,” Muir said.
They say domestic violence and teen dating violence are about control and different people may use different methods. But some things to look out for include acting withdrawn and spending less time with their peers. Other warning signs include a partner controlling what they wear or how they spend their time, looking at their phone without their permission and constantly putting them down.
“It’s a lot of digital stalking, it’s a lot of seeking permission to do things that normally you would not need permission for — hanging out with friends, going over socializing without the intimate partner,” says Wolf.
Wolf says these conversations start with teaching children healthy boundaries from a young age.
“Defining what that is for the individual, saying ‘no’ when something feels uncomfortable, those are conversations that are never too early to start,” she said.
Muir says these conversations are important because they will make life-long impacts.
“They save lives. These conversations not only determine the relationships that your children have now, but the relationships they will create in the future,” she says.
And most of all, what they want teens to know there are always people out there to help them.
“There are people that love them, they’re not alone, that they really need to tell someone, and that there are people here that will help them through this and navigate it,” says Muir.
Check out more domestic violence resources for parents and teens:
- Utah Domestic Violence Coalition
- Love is Respect
- National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline — Call or text: 1-866-331-9474
- National Domestic Violence Hotline — 1-800-799-7233
- Utah LINKLine — 1-800-897-5465