One in three teens experience physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse by a dating partner each year. As an educator, you are in frequent contact with students who are experiencing abuse for themselves or who know someone who is.
Warning Signs Your Student May Be Experiencing Dating Violence
Often, teens experiencing abuse never disclose their abuse to an adult. Because of this, it often takes an observant social worker or teacher to see the signs of abuse at school and in the classroom. While some signs may seem obvious, others are less easily identifiable.
Three Warning Signs of Teen Dating Abuse Identifiable in the Classroom
Your student’s physical appearance changes:
- Your student begins to have unexplained or sudden illnesses
- They begin to wear more makeup or stop wearing makeup all together
- They start wearing baggier clothes
- They seem passive or withdrawn
- You notice frequent bruising
- They begin self-harming behaviors such as cutting, hair pulling, etc.
Your student’s dating relationship lacks balance:
- Your student constantly checks in/texts and sends photos to prove where they are to their partner
- They make excuses for their partner’s behavior
- You observe extreme jealousy between your student and their partner
Your student’s behavior with peers and in the classroom changes:
- You observe a loss of friendships and general isolation of your student
- They are often late or do not attend class
- They seem worried that their dating partner may show up or know where they are because they attend class
- They seem unable to concentrate, are passive, compliant or withdrawn
- They have newly failing grades
So what can you do if you believe one of your students is experiencing abuse?
- Focus on being a safe and stable presence in your student’s day. While they may never disclose their abuse to you, you may be helping them more than you know by just allowing them the space to breathe and rest.
- Let your school’s social worker, psychologist, or counselor know about your suspicions. Make sure that when you do, you do so privately and are sharing the information in respectful and fact based manner. These professionals are trained in issues of teen dating abuse and will be able to follow up with your student.
- The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) has recently created and released a curriculum aimed at equipping teachers and students with the tools, resources, and knowledge needed to Take a Stand FOR Healthy Relationships. Go to the teens4healthyrelationships.org website and find out more about the resources available for teens experiencing abuse. Have those resources available to all students. Encourage your administration to explore the site as well.