October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Learn more about this pervasive issue that affects people of all ages, including teens.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are life-threatening crimes that affect millions of individuals across the nation regardless of age, economic status, race, religion or education.
Did you know?
One in 3 women, 1 in 3 teens, and 1 in 4 men experience violence in their relationships.
"I think we see it more often than we realize," said Kimberly Mikula, RN, BSN, CEN, clinical nurse educator in the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department. "Doylestown Hospital staff are required to screen for domestic violence with every patient visit but it may take multiple attempts before an individual is willing to admit that they are in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship."
As discreetly as possible, hospital staff ask patients of all ages if they feel safe or if they're experiencing emotional or physical abuse. Doylestown Hospital has a Domestic Violence Task Force and works closely with agencies like A Woman's Place for staff training. Several specially trained SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) nurses are available in the Emergency Department to help victims, and work with police to aid in prosecuting crimes. The SAFE nurse understands the special emotional and physical needs of the sexual assault or personal violence victim.
The Young Victims
Recently, there has been a particular effort to raise awareness about teen dating violence. This is defined as the physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence in a dating relationship, as well as stalking. It can happen in person or electronically and may occur between a current or former dating partner.
"It's very, very subtle," said Kimberly. "It can be anything from verbal put downs to physical abuse; anything to make the victim feel insecure about themselves and more dependent on the abuser."
The effects on an emotionally developing teen can be devastating and long term.
About 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Warning signs of an abusive relationship
- Appears to be the ideal partner at first
- Rushes into the relationship
- Extremely jealous and possessive
- Blames others when things go wrong
- Severe mood swings
- Rigid perception of gender roles
- Insults his/her partner in public
- Threatens to hurt you or him/herself if you break up
- Constantly checks in on partner
- Blows disagreements out of proportion
- Makes partner feel the need to constantly prove his/her love and devotion
"Where is the line between love and control? Coralee Trigger, a student filmmaker, made this video PSA for us as the culmination of her Girl Scout Gold Award." Can you tell?
What can parents do about teen dating violence?
"Parents need to pay close attention," said Kimberly. "Parents may think they are having a meaningful conversation with their kids, but they are really having the conversation the teen wants them to hear. Ask direct questions."
Parents can look for several clues, including noticing if the person comes around the family and interacts with them.
Help is available
If you are the victim of domestic violence, it's important to know that help is out there. "Talk to somebody," said Kimberly. "You can talk to a school counselor, parents, a pastor, or an adult that you trust. You can talk to friends, but friends are typically less reliable. Make sure it is someone who has nothing but your best interest in mind."
Local resources for victims of domestic violence
- NOVA (Network of Victim Assistance): Available 24 hours a day at 1-800-675-6900
- A Woman's Place: Available 24 hours a day at 1-800-220-8116
- Bucks County Children and Youth: Available 24 hours a day at 1-800-932-0313
- Lenape Valley Foundation (crisis and emergency services for mental or behavioral health): Available 24 hours a day at 218-345-2273
About Doylestown Health
Doylestown Health is a comprehensive system of inpatient, outpatient and community services connected to meet the health and wellness needs of all members of the community. Our independent and nonprofit system is dedicated to healthcare excellence from childbirth to end-of-life care.
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