By: Jasmine Yates
Did you know that the majority of people that get into a relationship in their teens and early twenties are liable to be in an abusive relationship? Studies show that 1 in 3 teens are likely to deal with physical, emotional & mental abuse (The Association of Junior Leagues International, INC.) in their relationships. Additionally, eighty-nine percent of women in college have said they do not know the signs when it comes to abuse in dating (The Association of Junior Leagues International, INC.). These are just a few of the startling statistics that make this topic so vital for conversation.
I had the opportunity to speak to Tajhae Barr who is an advocate, author, and victim of Teen Dating Violence. She was willing to help me share the importance of understanding and helping parents and teens to be able to avoid becoming a victim of TDV.
We began the conversation as Tajhae shared a little bit about her background and how she became involved in this work. She revealed, “I was a victim of TDV and needed an opportunity to begin healing my inner child. I was struggling with anxiety and sadness and it was stifling my desire to finish pursuing my Bachelor’s degree and will to live. Feeling overwhelmed with negative emotions led me to try to find a way out.” Eventually, she found self-expression to be a healthy outlet. She self-published a poetic memoir entailing her experiences with teen dating violence. This led to becoming the first teen dating violence (TDV) prevention public speaker for Turning Point, Inc’s Speakers Bureau in Mt. Clemens, MI, as well as other speaking engagement opportunities.
In hearing this, I was immediately inspired. To be open enough to share your story to help others is something that a lot of people are scared to do. I too am a victim of TDV who never had the courage to share my story until recently. This interview was very personal for me.
At what age should parents and loved ones start paying attention to their child’s relationships?
As early as they are able to begin developing them. This attention allows parents the ability to intervene in behavioral patterns that may lead to abusive behaviors. I highly suggest parents educate themselves often about adolescents and how they develop relationships, etc, so that these conversations are easier to initiate should the need arise.
How do we get parents to understand the significant impact of TDV?
If you think your child would not fall victim to this type of violence, you should know that nearly 1 in 11 females and approximately 1 in 15 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year, and about 1 in 9 female and 1 in 36 male high school students report having experienced sexual dating violence in the last year. Also, twenty-six percent of women and fifteen percent of men who were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their life first experienced these or other forms of violence by their partner before age 18.
What signs are the signs of TDV?
With millions of teens not knowing the red flags in dealing with another individual, here are some of the signs they should be aware of:
I know there are many children that experience these types of violence on a daily basis, though it may not end in them being a victim to teen abuse, it is important to engage in the conversation to ensure they are aware of these dangers.
What advice would you give to a teen that is going through TDV?
The time has also come for those of us in the diasporas to begin honoring our ancestors and acknowledging them. As well as spiritually investing in our overall well being holistically. Healing is a process that I am still learning to accept, but it is your responsibility to heal. Things may get unfamiliar, uncomfortable, lonely, and hopeless. However, you have a right to feel safe, loved, nurtured, and protected as a human. As many of us know, it is important to love yourself. No matter the circumstances you are in, it is vital that you have a strong connection with self so you will be able to fight off urges or the opinions of others.
What are the risks associated with TDV?
With being abused, most people never overcome the damage that has been done to them. Teens that experience TDV are more likely to:
- Experience symptoms of depression and anxiety,
- Engage in unhealthy behaviors, like using tobacco, drugs, and alcohol
- Exhibit antisocial behaviors, like lying, theft, bullying or hitting
- Think about suicide
Why do teenagers remain in these unsafe relationships?
The lack of awareness of what abuse is whether it’s emotional, or physical tends to be the primary reason. There may also be the fear of provoking further abuse from the abuser if they do tell someone, or in some cases the fear of being re-victimized. If no corrective action was taken to ensure the safety of the victim, whether that is to develop a care plan involving mental health and more support resources, the victim may have normalized the abuse due to lack of this and felt a sense of safety or identity with their abuser.
Tajhae goes on to add that, “As a call to action, I am urging parents and teens to start identifying signs of abuse and what a healthy relationship looks like, so these cycles may be broken. I urge school boards, community centers, places of worship, and other organizations to provide resources, such as prevention education, crisis management, and even shelter opportunities for victims of teen dating violence”.
What resources can you provide for parents that would like to know more about TDV?
Find more information to help avoid abuse and/or help overcome it by visiting these websites:
DBW:Crisis Support, Therapy For Black Girls Therapy Directory, your (state name).gov for more resources and information regarding TDV or Intimate Partner Violence More info can be found at the following links:
- Booklet on “parents guide to breaking cycle of TDV”
Thank you to Tajhae Barr for having the courage to allow her voice to speak on Teen Dating Abuse. There are many parents and teens who deal with this today and we are grateful to have the opportunity to be able to speak on it. Tajhae, who also goes by her IFA name Adeola, is a self-published author, College Senior at U of M-Flint, TDV prevention public speaker, aspiring blogger, and Founder of “Self-Love for the Black Wombman” make sure to follow her instagram below.
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