Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors are available for media interviews about teen dating violence in time for International Women's Day on March 8, 2012

TORONTO, March 5, 2012 /CNW/ - Kids Help Phone's counsellors never know what kind of call they're going to get when they pick up the phone. They're experienced professionals, ready for anything on the frontlines.

But no matter how experienced these counsellors are, there are calls that still "get under their skin," particularly calls about teen dating violence.

"This topic isn't new," says Alain Johnson, Clinical Director, French Language Services at Kids Help Phone. "But what is different about it is that it's 2012 and we are still hearing about it. It hasn't stopped."

With International Women's Day being celebrated on March 8, 2012, Kids Help Phone wants to start a discussion about teen dating violence. It's a topic that not only affects the young people within these relationships, but also their friends and families.

Why we want to talk about this

Dating violence most commonly impacts young women between the ages of 16-24.

It includes psychological, physical and sexual forms of aggression. 

Approximately 1/3 of high school students have had experiences with dating violence, yet it remains largely a hidden problem, as many adolescents do not recognize themselves as either receivers or perpetrators of dating violence.  Many adolescents remain silent about their experiences even when they do recognize that there is a problem.

  • Between 25% and 50% of Canadian teenage girls experience psychological, physical, or sexual violence in their first romantic relationships (Collin-Vezina et al., 2006)
  • Approximately 40% of women in same-sex relationships have experienced at least one incident of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse by a partner (Halpern et al., 2004)
  • Roughly 90% of college and university students who are sexually assaulted know the person who assaulted them (Harrison et al., 2008)
  • 30% of high school students who experience dating violence do not tell anyone about it (Black et al., 2008)
  • 55% of girls do not tell anyone about physical abuse they experience in their dating relationships (Black et al., 2008)
  • 7.5% of the calls and online posts Kids Help Phone receives relate to abuse, and 19% relate to peer issues.

What our experts are saying

"Sometimes we hear from young callers - 12 or 13 years old - who are in their first relationships, and those relationships are abusive," Johnson says. "We hear from girls who say that what's happening doesn't feel right, but they aren't always sure what to do, or whether they can even say no to their boyfriend. We don't hear calls about this every day, but we hear them often."

Learn to recognize the forms that dating violence can take, which include

  • Making threats
  • Making the person feel afraid
  • Putting the person down
  • Embarrassing the person
  • Controlling what the person does
  • Physically harming the person
  • Physically or emotionally coercing the person into unwanted sexual activity
  • Isolating the person, for example, by discouraging them from spending time with friends or family
  • Taking money from the person

What else should parents know if they suspect their child is being abused?

Communicate openly. By listening, discussing, and being supportive, you can help your child to experience what a healthy relationship feels like.

Let them know it's not their fault. Many people who experience dating violence don't tell anyone about the abuse because they are afraid of being blamed.  They often think that abuse is their own fault.  This is never the case.  Abuse is never the person's fault.  Like everyone else, they deserve to be treated with respect. 

Take the abuse seriously.  Let your child know that abusive behaviours are never okay.  Convey that what they're experiencing is a serious problem.  If necessary, involve the appropriate authorities, such as police.

Kids Help Phone's professional counsellors are available for interviews to share more expert tips on how to talk to young people about dating violence.

About Kids Help Phone

Kids Help Phone is Canada's leading online and phone counselling service for youth. It's free, it's anonymous and confidential, and it's available any time of the day or night, 365 days a year in English and in French.  Professional counsellors support the mental health and well-being of young people, ages five to 20, by providing one-on-one counselling, information and referral.  As a community-based national charity, Kids Help Phone receives no core government funding and relies on community and corporate support to fund its essential and vital service.

SOURCE: Kids Help Phone

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