February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

The importance of awareness can be found in the statistical increase in violence present in romantic relationships of those younger than 20.

“Dating violence is more common than many people think” according to www.loveisrespect.org. “One in 3 teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults.”

While more than 80 percent of parents said they are confident they can recognize the signs of their own child experiencing abuse in a romantic relationship, nearly 60 percent could not actually identify the warning signs of abuse.

Communication is key

The key factor in keeping children safe as they begin dating is to keep lines of communication open.

“As teenagers begin to date, they are at times exposed to unhealthy or even dangerous relationships. Since they don’t have past experiences to draw from, kids oftentimes will not recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship,” said Arkansas City Police Chief Dan Ward. “That is why it is so important for parents to talk with their teens about this topic.”

There are also many signs that can serve as red flags for parents and their children to watch for in romantic relationships.

Below is a list of common red flags that might indicate a relationship is unhealthy and could lead to violence.

Signs to watch for:

  • checking cell phones, emails or social networks without permission;
  • constant belittling or put-downs;
  • constant mood swings toward a significant other;
  • explosive temper;
  • extreme jealousy or insecurity;
  • isolation from family and friends;
  • making false accusations;
  • physically inflicting pain or hurt in any way;
  • possessiveness;
  • repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex;
  • telling someone what to do.

Dating resources

The Arkansas City Police Department stands ready to assist any teen who is experiencing any of the above behaviors.

“While many teen dating problems do not rise to the level of criminal activity, our School Resource Officers are always available to speak with students and offer guidance,” Ward said.

For teens who are in relationships in which there are signs of potential problems, there also are other resources.

For instance, the Sexual Assault Resource Center in Winfield has a hotline that is staffed 24 hours a day. It can be reached at (620) 229-7233.