Forty percent of girls age 14-17 report knowing someone their age that has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. Far too many; and those are just the ones brave enough to talk about it. February is Teen Violence Awareness month. Some girls don’t even know that their relationship is abusive, because it has become “normal” to them. Abuse includes psychological, social, and emotional abuse, as well as physical and sexual violence. You may be in an abusive relationship if your partner:
- Tells you what to do or how to act
- Blames you for his anger
- Keeps you from spending time with your family and/or friends
- Needs to know your whereabouts at every moment
Dating violence is everywhere. It crosses racial economic and social lines. Even the girls from “good families,” with supportive parents can get caught in this relationship trap. Not surprisingly, girls who come from homes where abuse is present, are often more likely to end up in relationships that emulate those they see day in and day out. And, the severity of intimate partner violence often increases in cases where patterns of abuse were established in adolescence.
A majority of parents admit to being unaware of teen dating violence as an issue. Don’t be one of them. Parents need to broach this topic with their teenagers. She may scoff, roll her eyes and tell you she would never let anyone abuse her, but abusive relationships often happen gradually. It starts with arguments, nasty text messages and yelling. Then one day she realizes that what she experiencing isn’t right and doesn’t know how to end the relationship due to fear.
Be aware. Maybe it’s not your child but a friend of hers that is experiencing abuse. If you suspect so, reach out. You could save her life. If your child expresses concern to you about what is happening in her relationship, take her seriously. Be supportive and understanding and make sure she knows that no matter the circumstances, no one deserves to be abused. Resources are available to help parents and teens navigate these situations. One of many is loveisnotabuse.com.
Teens need to feel empowered to get the support they need in situations like these. If you discover someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship, now is not the time to say, “I told you so,” tell her you knew she wasn’t ready to date, or criticize her choices in boys. What she needs is your love and support, not judgment.