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Teen Dating Violence – It’s Worse Than Parents Think

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, an issue most parents think will never effect their son or daughter.  But, unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Most parents don’t realize the extent of date violence and abuse among teens.  According to a study conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU):

 

  • 1 in 5 teens that have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped or pushed by a partner.
  • 1 in 3 girls who have been in a serious relationship say they’ve been concerned about being physically hurt by their partner.
  • 1 in 4 teens who have been in a serious relationship say their boyfriend or girlfriend has tried to prevent them from spending time with friends or family; the same number have been pressured to only spend time with their partner.
  • 1 in 3 girls between the ages of 16 and 18 say sex is expected for people their age if they’re in a relationship; half of teen girls who have experienced sexual pressure report they are afraid the relationship would break up if they did not give in.

Not only is dating abuse and violence escalating, but verbal abuse through texting, Facebook and chat rooms is on the rise and not being fully reported.  For my upcoming book on teen safety I’ve spoken to numerous teen girls in Wilton as well as the surrounding towns.  Many told me about the emotional abuse they withstood from boyfriends who attempted to control them both during the relationship and even after it ended.  Their boyfriends would text them incessantly demanding to know where they were and who they were with.  They were demeaned and told that they’d never find another boyfriend and how they were expected to act.  When the girls tried to break up, the abuser would begin spreading rumors about them through school and sending direct messages to any unsuspecting new boyfriend. 

Many of these girls were afraid to tell their parents as they saw it as a mistake they had made.  Only when the abuse escalated did they finally reach out to their parents for help.  Sadly, many girls also mistake this sort of behavior as romantic – that their boyfriend loves them so much that he wants to be with them constantly.  But this is typical behavior of an abuser, isolate the other person from everyone else so their opinions of themselves are solely formed based on what the abuser tells them.

 

The result is a widening gap between what’s happening to teens and what their parents are aware of.  It’s vital that parents recognize the signs of teen dating abuse:

  • Isolation – has your daughter stopped hanging out with her friends and family to exclusively be with her boyfriend?
  • Emotional Changes – has she become withdrawn or sad? 
  • Jealousy Issues – does her boyfriend flying into jealous rages if she speaks to another boy?
  • Making Excuses for Him – does she make excuses and blame herself if they have an argument and he verbally abuses her?

If your daughter is exhibiting any one of these behaviors it’s important to start a conversation and let her know you’re there to help.  Many times she might be afraid to tell you what’s going on.  Her boyfriend might be threatening to expose nude photos of her or in some other way blackmail her.  She needs to know that you love her unconditionally.  Talk to her about the specific issues that you’ve noticed and give her guidelines on how to end the relationship.  Explain to her that abuse usually begins with taunting, teasing and put downs but usually escalates to physical violence.  Enlist the support of psychologists and school administrators and make sure she knows that you will intervene on her behalf.

Please also look for support and information at www.LoveIsRespect.org

 

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