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Teen Health 411

Talking To Teens About Sexual Violence

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I am sad to say that sexual violence, date rape, and intimate partner violence are not decreasing in our culture. If anything, it seems to be increasing, with 17% of women and 3% of men experiencing a rape or attempted rape during their lifetime.

We need to help teens to not be victims or perpetrators by talking more about sexual violence as well as what healthy relationships are, so they know the difference.

It turns out that parents are right on when they object to their teens hanging out with older people, especially those who drink, smoke, and do drugs, because those are the best predictors of sexual violence! Research for years has documented that the younger the teen and the greater the age difference between the couple, the more likely there will be unwanted or forced sex. In addition, intimate partner violence is more common in couples who are sexually active.

To protect themselves, teens need to know that they should always carry their cell phone (turned on), are safer with a friend, group or double dating, and should avoid all smoking, drugs, and alcohol. Most sexual violence is by someone the victim knows and half of the rapes occur in a home, so avoiding being alone with someone is the best protection possible!

Teens also need to know that verbal and emotional abuse are the danger signs of sexual violence and include:
  • a partner who is possessive or mean;
  • a partner who is critical (of what a person eats, their friends, clothes, family, etc...);
  • any slapping or hitting;
  • insulting a person in public;
  • swearing;
  • throwing things at you; and
  • threatening violence.
Parents can help by role modeling healthy relationships that are not controlling or threatening and talking about what healthy relationships are. We can help teens avoid being victims!
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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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