By: Judy Szeg, Advocate at Safeline in Chelsea, Vermont
We hear a lot about children who are exposed to domestic violence (also known as IPV – Intimate Partner Violence). Unfortunately, we don’t hear or talk nearly enough about teens who are living in homes where one of their parents or caretakers is hurting the other. It is as if kids in homes with IPV become invisible when they become middle school age. According to a study reported in the Department of Justice’s Juvenile Justice Bulletin (October, 2011):
- 25.4% of youth aged 14 – 17 have been exposed to psychological or emotional IPV.
- 27.7% in that same age group have been exposed to physical IPV, and
- 40.3% have been exposed to any form of family violence.
Those percentages represent large numbers of youth. What might that exposure to violence at home, whether emotional, psychological or physical, feel like for a teen survivor? In the words of one survivor:
“I used to think my family was so different to everyone else’s. All my friends’ families seemed so nice. But being around my family stressed me out. Lots of times I didn’t want to go home. ” (Bursting the Bubble Homepage accessed 10.14)
Bursting the Bubble is an Australian group with information and support for youth who are living with domestic violence. Domestic violence occurs worldwide, not only in the U. S. (Please note that legal information on that site may not be applicable in the U. S.) There are sources of support and information available for youth survivors.
If you know a young person who has been exposed to emotional, psychological or physical abuse or have experienced it themselves, the sooner they talk to someone, the sooner they will know their options for support. Teens may just need someone to listen to them and connect to resources that can help. And, if you know youth who are recognizing that they have begun using abusive behavior, please support them to reach out for help in changing those behaviors.
Here are some things that you can suggest teens to do get support:
- Talk to a friend – especially one they can trust.
- Consider talking to a safe adult – maybe to their non-abusive parent or another relative, maybe a friend’s parent or someone from school.
- Remember that some adults, like teachers and coaches, are mandated to report child abuse. This doesn’t mean that teens shouldn’t talk to safe adults, but if harm is disclosed, the adult may have to tell.
- Connect with local domestic or sexual violence programs – to ask questions about their situation or get support. For Domestic/Dating Violence 1-800-228-7395. For Sexual Violence 1-800-489-7273. The Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence has additional contact information for Network Programs. If youth are under 18: to ensure that their communication is private, they can choose not to use their real name or say where they are from.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: A time to educate ourselves, to reach out, to act, to change our culture and to stand together.