Teens and dating violenceWritten by Brenda Branson
What's inside this article
Dating violence is a real and serious danger. It is one of the major sources of violence in teen life. In 1991, studies indicated that dating violence affected at least one in ten teenage couples (Levy 1991). Today, that number has increased to one in every four! Although the majority of dating violence victims are female, there are some young men who are victims of abusive girlfriends who use emotional and verbal abuse to control and intimidate.
Distorted understanding of love
Many teenagers interpret their partner’s possessiveness and violent behaviour as a sign of love. They have either seen violence as a way of life at home, or they have not been taught about healthy relationships.
Meredith Blake, founder of Break the Cycle, (a non-profit, legal services organization in California) believes that "we as a society in general and the legal community in particular, will not make any significant, long-term impact on the prevalence and devastation of domestic violence unless and until we focus our attention on our children.
"By teaching teens early on what constitutes a healthy vs. an abusive relationship, crimes and consequences, legal rights and responsibilities, we are able to assist teens in making safe and healthy choices.
"This preventative education also enables teens that have grown up in violent homes to challenge that learned behaviour and choose a different lifestyle. For those teens that may already be in an abusive relationship, this early education helps both abusers and victims to understand the consequences of their actions and the options available."
All forms of abuse
Dating violence is not just physical abuse – it also includes verbal and emotional abuse, described by psychotherapist Jill Kaplan as the "systematic degradation of a soul." The abuse also takes the form of obsession and possessiveness. Many girls are controlled by their boyfriends by carrying pagers or cell phones so they can check in with them several times a day and night. One girl was required to return her boyfriend’s page within 30 seconds, and show up at his house within 15 minutes of a phone call.
A 14-year-old girl in the ninth grade talked to her controlling boyfriend on the phone seven or eight times a night. Her mother overheard her hysterically begging for forgiveness and pledging her love to him over and over. The girl eventually tried to commit suicide after a fight with her boyfriend because she thought it would get his attention.
Signs to watch for
Here are a few of the warning signs to help parents and teens recognize abuse in a dating relationship:
Does your boyfriend . . .
Many teenagers don’t tell their parents about an abusive relationship because they are confused about what constitutes abuse, they don’t want to lose their freedom, and they may fear they cannot get another boyfriend.
Dating violence affects the entire family, and takes them on an emotional roller coaster ride which lasts long after the relationship has ended. The wise parent will actively seek to strengthen communication between themselves and their teenagers and learn to watch for danger signs.
© 2004 FOCUS Ministries, Focusministries1.org. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.
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