More than 10% of high school students who are in a dating relationship experience heavy-handed control issues, subtle manipulations, and some physical violence and sexual assaults. These numbers increased to more than 39% for college students.
With the growing awareness of spouse abuse and the increase in teen violence, it is not surprising that we are more aware of the prevalence of teen date abuse. Researchers have been studying the roots of relationship abuse in dating couples. It is estimated that up to one in four dating couples is experiencing abuse. The current literature explains that this abuse involves dynamics specific to teens as opposed to that of marriage relationship abuse. The minor status of these abuse victims implies a stronger role that parents, teachers, and counselors play.
Relationship abuse involves physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Unfortunately, teens tend to have a higher tolerance for accepting these abuses.
Frequently, the controlling and violence is misunderstood by teen couples. They often believe these are actions reinforcing their love or bond for each other. These messages are reinforced (and sometimes glamorized) through television, film, music, humor, inaccurate advice from others, or observations of other couples.
Teens are rarely given messages describing the long term effects of abusive behavior. They also lack clear direction from peers and adults focused on handling abusive situations, seeking help, terminating the relationship, and enhancing the quality of their healthy relationships. – Anna Tyrrell
This project introduced teenagers to the combination of creative writing and drawing, along with discussions, art interpretation and story reading in front of peers and a camera, to resolve inner conflicts. By learning to identify a relationship as either a Match or Mismatch, participants were empowered to make relationship decisions based on personal needs rather than peer pressure or negative home-role models. With this key to understanding relationship dynamics based on how they feel about themselves before, during and after they were with their partner, they had the confidence and emotional strength to end bad relationships with a sense of dignity.
Being given the tools (writing and illustrating) to delve inwardly and express themselves constructively, these teenagers acknowledged their value and learned to make healthy choices when falling in love.