Teen dating can risk more than a broken heart

If you have a teenage daughter — or, really, a son — this is worth taking note.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proclaimed February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. But our region at large, even across the border, needs to learn and recognize the signs of dating violence.

Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States are physically abused by dating partners every year, yet only 33 percent disclose that abuse. And the pattern can continue — about 43 percent of college women and 28 percent of college men report experiencing either abuse or controlling behaviors in a dating relationship, research shows.

“As a state, we must do more to reduce the prevalence of teen dating violence. The earlier we intervene with young perpetrators, the more likely we are to prevent future victimization,” said Robert Gordon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “The state of Michigan is dedicated to holding perpetrators accountable and employing all necessary measures to reduce their risk and harm to victims.”

Dating violence perpetrators cause significant and long-lasting trauma to countless victims by intentionally using a pattern of physical, emotional, sexual, psychological, and economic coercion and abuse to control their intimate partners.

“All Michiganders can play a part in ending teen dating violence,” said Debi Cain, executive director of the MDHHS Division of Victim Services. “As caring parents, family, friends, classmates, educators, coaches and co-workers, we can educate ourselves about this critical issue and direct youth to supportive services.”

Anyone in an abusive relationship who needs support can call the Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522. To find a local domestic violence or sexual assault program provider, go to the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence website. Sexual assault survivors can call 855-VOICES4 for support and referrals.