Emerging Issues, Young Adults

Shedding Light on Teen Dating Violence, Understanding, Addressing, and Preventing It

May 01, 2024

Recent data from Statistics Canada highlights the prevalence of teen dating violence among youth, aged 15 to 17, spanning from 2009 to 2022. Shockingly, 45% of teens self-reported experiencing dating violence since the age of 15. These figures are not just numbers; they represent a painful reality, faced by many young people.

Dating violence encompasses various forms of abuse, with emotional abuse being prevalent among all self-reported instances, either independently or in conjunction with other forms of violence.

In 2022, police reported data revealed a stark gender discrepancy, with dating violence, being nine times higher among girls than boys. Moreover, rural areas exhibited double the rate of teen dating violence compared to urban areas. Research also highlights the disproportionate impact of dating violence on 2SLGBTQIA+ teens compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers.

Adolescence is a crucial age of identity development, yet discussions around healthy relationships and communication often take a backseat to topics like STI and pregnancy prevention. This oversight is concerning because navigating relationships requires guidance and education, especially in a society where patriarchal norms still prevail.

Early education on consent and healthy communication is imperative, because without such foundational teachings, teens are left vulnerable to the normalization of gender-based violence and may experience or perpetuate harmful behaviors and attitudes. 

It is also crucial to acknowledge the limitations of data, particularly concerning under reporting. Many instances of intimate partner violence go on reported, highlighting, systematic issues and societal attitudes that normalize such behaviors, even among children and youth. We must challenge engrained societal beliefs that trivialize or excuse violence, particularly within childhood contexts where phrases like “boys will be boys” perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Instead, children can and should be encouraged to expressed themselves verbally, fostering, emotional intelligence and healthy interactions from a young age.

While existing research sheds light on the experiences of certain groups, it’s also essential to explore the unique challenges faced by teens who are racialized, immigrant, Indigenous, and teens who have disabilities, as these populations often face disproportionate marginalization and structural inequities that may prevent them from reporting or even self-reporting.

Rural communities present distinct challenges in addressing teen dating violence, including limited access to resources and transportation barriers. Privacy concerns and the potential presence of firearms within family homes further complicate matters. Families may use firearms to control pest animals in their barns are fields and many rural people use guns to hunt game, which becomes a source of food for families. However, in rural communities’ guns are used in domestic violence homicides at a rate more than two times higher than an urban domestic violence homicides (29%) compared to 12%.

To combat teen dating violence effectively, prevention efforts must prioritize, education, consent, and healthy communication starting at a very young age, especially considering research suggests that teens who experience IPV are at a higher risk of experiencing it as adults because of the normalization of abusive behaviours and unhealthy relationship dynamics.

Resources and initiatives such as those offered by various organizations and campaigns like Neighbours, Friends and Families, play a crucial role in raising awareness and providing education to youth. By promoting healthy masculinities and healthy communication, youth are provided with the tools to foster respectful relationships and we can all strive toward a future free of violence.

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