DHHS Press Release

Lincoln – Nebraska’s Division of Behavioral Health (DBH), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), urges parents and other adults to have real and in-depth conversations with their children during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. DHHS is one of the providers of funds to The Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

“The next generation of Nebraskans are the future of our community,” said Tony Green, the Interim Director of the Division of Behavioral Health. “It is vital to communicate and have real conversations with young individuals to promote safe and healthy relationships. By providing support to these individuals, teaching the importance of respecting each other’s boundaries, and promoting emotional and physical safety in a relationship, Nebraska can support our youth and work towards building a safe and secure community.”

The effects of dating abuse can last a lifetime. Dating abuse is described as a pattern of physically, mentally, emotionally, or sexually abusive behavior that is used to exert power and control over a partner. Victims are more likely to drop out of school, suffer from depression or anxiety, abuse drugs, have an eating disorder, or attempt suicide.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 2019, approximately one in 12 high school students in the United States reported experiencing physical dating violence, and one in 12 high school students experienced sexual dating violence. This is an issue that impacts everyone including teens, as well as their parents, teachers, friends, and communities. Raising awareness about teen dating violence can help promote and provide safe, healthy relationships.

Signs to look out for that could be considered dating abuse:

  • Name-calling, insults, or put-downs in public or in private
  • Making one partner feel guilty about his or her normal behaviors
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Being distant or violent, then being warm and loving
  • Being blamed for mistakes made by the abuser
  • Threatening behavior, including via text
  • Tampering with a person’s email or other social media accounts
  • Stalking, harassing, or monitoring
  • Use of force during an argument
  • Breaking or striking objects intended to terrorize the victim into submission
  • Cruelty to animals or children

If help is needed in trying to find the right words to speak to your child about dating violence, try these conversation starters:

  • What does dating mean to you?
  • What are some things you like about your friends and the ways they treat you?
  • When you stand up for yourself, how does it make you feel? Do you think you are being strong, bossy, or pushy? Why?
  • What should you do if someone you’re dating threatens you? What if someone you are dating tells you to keep quiet and not tell anyone, even though you know it is wrong?
  • Choose one couple you know of who you think has a good relationship and one couple who you think has an unhealthy relationship. Why did you pick these couples?

How can you help your child?

  • Listen and give support
  • Accept what your child is telling you
  • Show concern
  • Talk about the behaviors, not the person
  • Avoid ultimatums
  • Be prepared
  • Decide on the next steps together

A healthy partnership should include:

  • Respect for each other’s individuality
  • An equal say in the relationship
  • Respect for each other’s boundaries
  • Feeling safe when being open and honest
  • Being able to share feelings without negative consequences
  • Experiencing emotional and physical safety in a relationship

Need to talk or get immediate help in a crisis? Help is available. If you or a loved one need assistance, please reach out to:

  • The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline; call, text, or chat 988
  • Your faith-based leader, your healthcare professional, or your student health center on campus.
  • Nebraska Family Helpline – Any question, any time. (888) 866-8660
  • Rural Response Hotline, (800) 464-0258
  • Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990 (oprime dos para Español) or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4AChild (1-800-422-4453) or text 1-800-422-4453
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)