Today's teens aren't all getting the message about what healthy dating relationships look like. And in some cases, that can lead to unhealthy, dangerous relationships, experts say.
"What I'm seeing is a generational thing where parents don't really know what a healthy relationship looks like so they're not able to teach their children what a healthy relationship looks like," said Leslie Muir, sexual assault crisis intervention specialist at the Durham Crisis Response Center.
"There is a breakdown in communication some place that we're not teaching our young men that it's not OK to tell your 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-year-old girlfriend that she can't wear that skirt," Muir said.
Duke Medicine's Teer House will host a special workshop on May 18 on teen dating violence. Tasha Venters, a rape prevention educator at the crisis response center, will lead the discussion, which is open to parents, teachers and anybody else who works with teens.
Teens are especially susceptible to dating violence because they are inexperienced at dating relationships, can be pressured by peers to act violently, want to be independent from their parents and have romantic views of love, according to the center.
Young men might think they have a right to control their girlfriends and that being masculine means being physically aggressive. Young women might think their boyfriend's jealousy and even physical abuse is romantic.
"We're seeing incidents where young men are very dominating and controlling and a girl thinks it's flattering," said Muir, who added that she's seen young women who abuse their boyfriends as well.
If parents are concerned that their child might be in an unhealthy relationship, Muir said they should look for some key warning signs. For instance, their child might feel that they need to be in constant contact with their boyfriend or girlfriend. They might not wear certain clothes because their boyfriend doesn't want them too. Or they might not be interested in their old friends.
"Parents need to be parents," she said. "I realize that it is a difficult subject, but you don't not talk to them because it's difficult. The alternative is that your son or daughter might find themselves in a situation that may very well could have been prevented. We need to stop being afraid about talking about this issue. If you're not comfortable talking to them, call us, we'll provide material."
The May 18 workshop will focus on recognizing the warning signs and what you can do to help. Registration is required. Click here for details about this event and others at Duke's Teer House.