Take time to learn how to cultivate healthy relationships

By Kourtney David | Copy Editor

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.” When a lot of people see a statistic like that, they may think, “That could never happen to me.” The reality, though, is that domestic violence is wildly common, and while it’s also preventable, it puts millions of people at risk every day. With more education and awareness, we can teach young people how to cultivate love and healthy relationships.

Common misconceptions about domestic violence are that it’s obvious and physical and that it always occurs between married adults. However, this issue permeates into younger populations, and abuse doesn’t have to be physical to have an impact. In fact, according to Project Sanctuary, “Intimate partner violence is most common among women between the ages of 18-24.”

Oftentimes, young people aren’t equipped with healthy communication skills or taught how to spot abusive tendencies in their relationships, leading them to believe that a harmful pattern is part of normal relationships.

An article by Washington University in Saint Louis lays out many warning signs of abuse that are common in dating violence. Some red flags include isolation from friends and family, threats of physical force, excessive jealousy, degradation, physical restraint and coercion.

The WUSTL article lists numerous abusive behaviors, and many are incredibly common and dismissed frequently. Some abusive behaviors include pressure tactics and threats (including threats of self-harm and suicide), abandonment, unwanted letters or emails, stalking, isolation, hitting, sexual abuse and destructive criticism. I strongly encourage everyone to be familiar with these lists. Some highly normalized behaviors on this list are shocking.

The impact of dating violence on young people can be devastating in the short and long term if left unattended. It occurs during one of the most developmental stages of anyone’s life, when most people form a self-image and view of the world. As you can imagine, constant manipulation will warp your reality. You learn maladaptive behaviors and thought patterns that will be a part of your cognitive toolbox forever.

In the short term, an article by youth.gov states that victims of dating violence are more likely to have issues in school, develop body issues and eating disorders, engage in risky behaviors and attempt suicide.

The same article also states that victims are more likely to engage in violent adult relationships. In addition, survivors could also have difficulty in the long term establishing an adult identity and developing personal values. Survivors may develop mental and physical illnesses that last a lifetime.

However, dating violence is not a hopeless cause, and with increased education and advocacy, we can each play a part in stopping the endless cycle of domestic violence. People of all ages can be affected by intimate partner violence, and we have to stop acting like our actions as teens and young adults will have no effect on later outcomes. By educating ourselves on the warning signs, we can better recognize them in our relationships and advocate for what we deserve.

Victims, survivors and advocates can find more information and emergency resources on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website. Locally, the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children offers free and confidential counseling and a variety of other services for victims. Additionally, the Family Abuse Center provides victims with a place to experience abuse-free life and safety. Lastly, the Counseling Center is a great place to start getting connected with the right resources.

No one you love should make you feel bad or crazy, even if they rationalize it. No one who loves you would pressure you or intentionally make you uncomfortable with their behavior. No one deserves to treat your body with disrespect.