February marks teen dating violence awareness and prevention month


Kayla Anderson

What teen violence can do to the mental health of an individual.

Lauryn Olivarez, Opinion Editor

Something that isn’t talked about a lot is the topic of violent teen relationships, and this month, February, just so happens to be  Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

Marina Montemayor works for Northwest Assistance Ministries, a non-profit multiprogram social agency in North Houston. They help those in need of shelter, food, clothing, and medical assistance.  In particular, Montemayor works in the Family Violence Center, which helps individuals that have been victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, as a prevention educator. As such, it’s her responsibility to go out to schools, both middle and high school alike, and teach kids about teen dating violence.

It’s not uncommon that teens find themselves in a mentally or physically abusive relationship. A lot of teenagers think that it’s not as likely compared to that of an adult’s but in reality, it’s not really as rare as they may think. A misconception with any violent relationship is that all one has to do is walk away, however, that’s almost never the case. In all actuality, people find it difficult to leave an abusive significant other under false pretenses of love.

One stigma with abusive relationships is that men think it can’t happen to them. Not just that, but they may not want to acknowledge what’s happening to them out of fear of being perceived as weak. In fact, the full extent of what goes on in those relationships is not fully understood because they’re less likely to stand up and speak out.

“Young men are experiencing violence in their relationships just as young women are, at the same frequency,” Montemayor said.

In terms of recognizing a violent situation, here are some signs that can help identify a potentially harmful relationship.

  • One fight doesn’t mean violence. It’s a pattern of unhealthy behaviors that happen over time in an attempt to gain power.
  • Physical abuse
  • Isolation – Someone spending more time with their partner and away from friends and family
  • Control
  • Excessive jealousy
  • Lack of trust

When it comes to someone you know who’s in a serious situation, it can be difficult to provide help.

“The best thing we can do is support them,” Montemayor said. “We can do that first, by starting a conversation.”

It can be hard to admit and come to terms with the fact that someone is indeed in an unhealthy relationship. They may not even realize they’re being manipulated. While that may not be what concerned friends or family want to hear, simply talking is the biggest thing you can do. Sometimes, getting involved does more harm than good. Let them know that you’re here for them and that if, or when they’re ready to talk, you’ll be there to listen. They should be the ones leading the conversation, and you should never push them to tell you anything that they’re not ready to admit.

“We never want to force somebody a certain way,” Montemayor said.

Another way you can help is by providing resources:

  • Northwest Assistance Ministries has a 24 hotline, which you can call at 281-885-4673 or 888-750-4673.
  • loveisrespect.org allows you to call, text, or chat online with them, completely free and confidential.

If you see something, say something. It’s better to be incorrect than to unknowingly let someone you love and care for suffer alone.