There have been 288 school shootings in the United States since 2009. That’s an average of nearly three school shootings every month. It seems as though school shootings are an almost uniquely American problem. The United States has 57 times more shooting incidents than all other industrial nations, combined. Why? Many point to the country’s extremely relaxed gun regulations. Others argue that guns aren’t the problem, mental health issues are. Recently, however, a new answer has stormed to the center of conversation: teen dating violence.
Recent Shootings Indicate Teen Dating Violence Connection
Earlier this month, a 17-year-old teenage boy entered his Texas high school and killed 10 people. Among his victims was a female student that had reportedly rejected the gunman’s sexual advances. Frustrated and angry with being told “no,” the boy grabbed a gun and committed the atrocity.
Before Texas, a 19-year-old teenage boy in Florida went on a killing spree inside his high school. Investigations into the shooter’s past revealed that he had issues of domestic violence and reportedly threatened to kill his ex-girlfriend and her new love interest. Frustrated and angry with sexual rejection, this boy, too, grabbed a gun and took 17 lives.
Before Florida, a 17-year-old teenage boy in Maryland entered his high school with a gun and shot two people before he was stopped by security. One of his victims: his ex-girlfriend. Jilted from his recent sexual rejection, the teenager armed himself with his father’s gun and stole his ex-girlfriend’s future with a single bullet.
Unfortunately, the list of school shooting incidents that were perhaps partially fueled by a teenage boy’s inability to cope with the trials and tribulations of teenage romance goes on and on.
Identifying Teen Dating Violence
There is strong evidence to support the fact that teen dating violence may be an indicator of gun violence and school shootings. It follows, then, that identifying teen dating violence could potentially help to reduce the number of school shootings in America. Intervening in a teenager’s life before a situation becomes too dire could be incredibly impactful. So, it is imperative that (a) we know what teen dating violence is and (b) we are able to recognize signs and symptoms.
What is Teen Dating Violence?
Teen dating violence does not necessarily have to involve physical violent behavior. Instead, teen dating violence can be defined as “physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional aggression within a dating relationship.” Stalking can also be placed under the term’s broad umbrella.
Teen dating violence is particularly problematic because teenagers are often ill-equipped to handle the emotions that accompany romantic attraction. Relationships can turn violent if one teen fears that the other will leave or has lost interest. Abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual, is a way for a teen lacking the necessary coping skills to exercise power and control.
When these violent relationships end, much to the dismay of the violent teen, it seems as though aggression builds until there is a breaking point. Unfortunately, it seems as though school shootings are an increasingly popular way for these violent teens to (a) get revenge on their ex-dating partners and/or (b) demonstrate their power.
Signs of Teen Dating Violence
The best way to prevent teen dating violence from escalating is to know how to identify the problem. Warning signs that violent teens may demonstrate in a romantic relationship include:
- Isolation and/or preventing a dating partner from spending time with others
- Increased mood swings and irritability
- Threats of violence and/or abuse
- Yelling and screaming
- Secretly monitoring a partner’s email, texts, and call logs
- Forced sexual activity
- Pressuring a partner into behavior they’re not comfortable with
- Refusal to accept responsibility for issues in the relationship
- Calling a partner names and/or degrading them, and/or
- Bouts of violent behavior that are frightening.
If you are a teenager in a romantic relationship and you recognize any of these behaviors, it’s important to speak with your parent immediately. These are all signs that the teen may be in need of counseling and/or treatment to help them cope with difficult emotions and feelings. Getting them help right away could help to save lives.