Detecting Gender Violence in Adolescents

Gender-based violence in adolescents is one of the biggest challenges faced by families, friends, and of course, victims. In fact, it has the potential to completely destroy hopeful futures. So, what does it consist of and how can it be identified? Find out here.
Detecting Gender Violence in Adolescents
Gorka Jiménez Pajares

Written and verified by the psychologist Gorka Jiménez Pajares.

Last update: 26 April, 2023

Gender violence manifests in many ways in adolescents. However, sexual harassment is the most prevalent. This is particularly relevant, bearing in mind that adolescence is a crucial stage in the exploration of identity and the understanding of social expectations and imposed gender norms. In fact, any distortion in these processes can lead to the development of violent behaviors.

Gender-based violence takes many forms. It can be both physical and emotional. Online harassment is also common. In the context of adolescence, sexual harassment has the potential to be quite hurtful, lowering and diminishing youngsters’ self-esteem and self-love. For example, isolation, injuries, and low self-esteem are just some of its consequences.

“Gender violence is one of the most extreme forms of discrimination and a violation of human rights.”

-Ban Ki-Moon-

Gender violence

Gender violence revolves around unequal power relations between men and women. As a rule, it occurs in the context of a relationship, regardless of whether the couple lives together. The rapid increase in the number of cases that are currently being reported means there’s a need to bring this social and health issue to the public arena.

Gender violence often begins with behaviors aimed at the control of women. Unfortunately, this is a fact that frequently goes unnoticed or is minimized. It often crystallizes in assaults, angry outbursts, and other forms of aggression. In these cases, lack of protection, helplessness, and decreased self-esteem emerge in the victim.

Adolescent victim of gender violence protects herself so as not to receive blows
Violence in adolescence can have long-term effects on mental and emotional health.

The cultivation and development of violence

The Spanish Ministry of Equality has published a guide for the detection of gender violence in adolescents (Guía para la detección de la violencia de género en adolescentes). It identifies and describes three phases in which these behaviors occur.

  1. Tension accumulates during the first period of the relationship between the adolescent and their partner. As a result, small outbursts of anger and irritability emerge. They make the partner anxious.
  2. In the intermediate phase, the tension is manifested in explosions of violence of variable power. In fact, the differences between them can be so wide that they might range from minor slaps to killer blows
  3. Finally, the ‘honeymoon period’ occurs. The perpetrator apologizes. Moreover, they promise that their excessive control, beatings, and verbal abuse will never happen again.

Yet, far from being a reality, the honeymoon period is merely a promise that won’t be fulfilled. Instead, the violent cycle of control and physical and verbal aggression restarts. It’s a vicious circle. But, what can be done to prevent it? Detection is key.

Detecting gender violence in adolescents

It’s extremely painful, as a parent, to see your child badly treated. As a matter of fact, any vulnerable person being subject to abuse goes beyond the bounds of acceptability. Therefore, if you’re a relative or friend of a suspected victim, here are some guidelines, described in the above-mentioned guide, to help detect if they’re suffering from gender violence,

  • Isolation.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Changes in attitude.
  • Abandonment of studies.
  • Signs of physical injury.
  • Demonstrating macho ideas.
  • Disruptive behaviors such as aggressiveness.
  • Lack of autonomy in decision-making.
  • Changes in clothing and grooming rituals.
  • Abandonment of activities (painting, soccer, tennis, etc.).
  • Justification of jealousy on the part of their partner (“They’re jealous because they love me”).
  • Dependency. This might be exhibited by permanent contact on social media or through their cellphone.

As a rule, relationships are based on trust, mutual admiration, and respect. Yet, sometimes, this is far from the case. If jealousy predominates and the individual feels alienated, it could be a sign of something unhealthy. In fact, it could be a precursor to abuse.

Clasped hands symbolizing that violence cannot be covered up and it is time to raise your voice
By working together, we can prevent violence and create a future with greater security and equity.

Recognition of gender violence in the victim

Feeling humiliated, controlled, and undervalued can place the victim in a suffocating black hole. It’s exhausting. Moreover, it appears to be neverending, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. If you think you’re a victim of gender violence, talk to your parents, your teachers, the police, or your doctor. Make sure you ask for help if your partner carries out any of the following actions (Ministry of Equality, 2023):

  • Checks your phone.
  • Doesn’t allow you to work.
  • Forces you to have sex.
  • Humiliates you, yells at you, or insults you.
  • Ridicules or belittles you.
  • Isolates you from your family and friends.
  • Controls the way you dress.
  • Threatens to hurt you or your loved ones.
  • Makes you feel inferior.
  • Makes you abandon your friends because they don’t like them.
  • Often ignores you and overrides the way you feel.

“GBV can have long-term consequences for future relationships and young people’s ability to form healthy, respectful connections.”

-Emma Watson-

Gender violence can be born in adolescence and perpetuate throughout life. Therefore, early detection contributes to breaking the cycle. Talking about it and reporting incidences are the first steps toward self-care and self-respect. It implies prioritizing the sufferer’s own health, both physical and mental.

Today, this type of violence has become increasingly public. It’s a worry for society because its negative effects act like a time bomb on the body and mind. For this reason, if you see someone in a situation of gender violence or you’re experiencing it yourself, report it.

You might like to read Say NO to Gender Based Violence

Prevention and intervention

Gender violence is one of the worst scenarios that a teenager can face. Indeed, as a result of this harmful act, they may experience isolation and anxiety, along with the perpetrator’s justification of their excessive control. For this reason, it’s essential to invest in prevention and intervene when any risk situation is identified.

However, the challenge that gender violence presents is tremendous. Furthermore, it’s multifaceted and multicausal. Therefore, any approach must also be multidisciplinary. We must take small individual actions that ultimately become large actions carried out by our social groups. Undoubtedly, education in equality and the promotion of a culture of denunciation will help. Finally, we must all work together.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.