Women between ages 16 to 24 experience triple the national average of violence from an intimate partner, according to domestic violence research.
Local police say the issue is happening in the Rio Grande Valley and several agencies are stepping up efforts to stop teen dating violence.
“One in three teenagers experience some type of dating violence,” said Investigator Sarah Rodriguez with the Edinburg Police Department. “There are signs, for example, if their significant other is harassing them on social media or even with text messages, trying to control their behaviors, who they hang out with, that’s a red flag for the beginning of teen dating violence.”
It’s not just one type of abuse that is being seen among teens.
“Teen dating violence isn’t just physical, it’s emotional, sexual, digital, stalking,” said Sarah Rodriguez.
Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year, according to Love Is Respect, a domestic violence resource website.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and local police want victims to know there are resources for them in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We are currently pushing out facts online throughout the week for the whole month to continue building awareness to say, ‘hey, if you’re going through an unhealthy relationship, it’s not right and there are options out there for you,'” said Sarah Rodriguez.
The city of Weslaco and the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office is also observing teen dating violence awareness month, even issuing proclamations on the issue.
“This is all over the Valley, not only my office, but there are so many agencies also that are involved and engaged to send a message out there that kids should be respected, love shouldn’t hurt,” said Ricardo Rodriguez with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office. “Students should also be treated respected and with dignity and there shouldn’t be any violence towards the kids.”
There could also be jail time for any partners responsible.
“If they’re involved with any type of stalking or physical violence, they can be reprimanded for that here or through the juvenile system,” said Sarah Rodriguez.
District police may also intervene if the abuse is happening on campus grounds.
Edinburg police will be hosting a teen self-defense class, as well as a painting class, to show support for victims of teen dating violence.