February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and with Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, experts say knowing the difference between love and abuse is important, especially for teens between the ages of 12 to 19.
Teen dating violence is more common than people might think. Experts say one in three teens in the U.S. are survivors of dating abuse that isn’t just physical.
“This can include physical, emotional, verbal, digital abuse, and even stalking," said Arti Kothari, Lumina Alliance Prevention Program Manager.
Lumina Alliance is a San Luis Obispo County-based organization that provides support to people facing sexual and intimate partner violence.
Managers there say social media and technology are playing a big role in allowing abusers to control their partners. That includes stalking using GPS through a device and intruding on personal information.
“They’ll take information that is private either through messaging or pictures and they’ll sort of hold it against them. We see that with images, we see that with texts, and we also see that with videos. A common term we use is revenge porn," said Armando Ruiz, Lumina Alliance Prevention Program Manager.
While every relationship is different, experts say there are some signs to look out for that can lead to an abusive relationship.
“There are a few things to look out for like increased jealousy from a partner or maybe your partner is isolating you from your friends and taking away their support system. Things like blame-shifting or gaslighting," said Kothari.
They say it‘s important for family and friends to notice any behavioral changes such as someone who isolates themselves or is not contacting people as much as they used to, which might be a red flag of an abusive relationship.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, Lumina Alliance has a free 24-hour crisis and information line at (805) 545-8888, or you can find more resources on their website.