Intimate Partner Violence and Sexploitation
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, an annual, month-long effort focused on advocacy and education to stop dating abuse before it starts.
According to loveisrespect, an organization that works to disrupt and prevent unhealthy relationships and intimate partner violence, “1 in 3 teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with before they become adults, and nearly half (43%) of college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors.” This is an issue that can have long-term consequences. For example, adolescents in abusive relationships often carry unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships.
Dating violence can affect anyone. People representing all races, genders, ethnicities, cultures, religions, and socioeconomic backgrounds are vulnerable to dating violence; however, runaway and homeless youth are at greater risk and experience higher rates of dating violence and victimization than other adolescent groups.
This increase may be due to limited access to resources, little or no support system, and exposure to street culture. Runaway and homeless youth may form and stay in unstable relationships for security, whether it be shelter, money, or even affection. Many times, this leads to coercion and manipulation, and a person may engage in undesirable and uncomfortable behaviors. In extreme circumstances, these behaviors could be considered labor or sex trafficking and exploitation.
It is important to recognize the signs of both dating violence and human trafficking and to know where to seek help for oneself or someone else. Identifying elements of an abusive relationship is a vital step in ending dating violence and ultimately learning how to build healthy relationships.
The National Runaway Safeline’s hotline and online crisis services are available 24/7, and staff and trained volunteers are prepared to support those reaching out for help regarding violence, abuse, or exploitation by an intimate partner.