Protecting Teens From Dating Violence
I’m sure most of us if not all of us have known someone at some point during our Junior High/High School years who was being abused by their boyfriend. (Possibly even our older siblings when we were children.) There were a few girls I suspected of being in such relationships before I, myself, was in one. I never knew how to address the issue with those girls or what to do about it, and it seems my friends, who I later discovered suspected or knew about my problems, didn’t know how to handle their suspicions about my relationship, either. And so we all went on being abused in the various ways our boyfriends chose – either through the peer pressure of their friends or the upbringing of their fathers.
One of the most astonishing things to note is that we had a special assembly when I was in 9th grade and again when I was in 11th grade that were hosted by members of law enforcement special crimes officers and rape crisis councilors. These assemblies were small, only included 9th-12th grades, and in the second one I attended, we were divided into two rooms: Girls in the library, Boys in the activity lounge.
They discussed date rape, violence, control issues, jealousy, etc… We had the opportunity to speak with the officers or councilors after the assembly in private, and were each given their cards to call them later anonymously if needed. Sadly, I don’t recall anyone speaking with them and I don’t think anyone called later.
Relationships I knew to be volatile didn’t change, including my own. The only explanation I can fathom is shame, and if you don’t admit it’s happening, you don’t have to accept the shame that comes with the undeserved guilt society has long branded victims with of being responsible for what happens to them.
Thankfully, victims are finally being allowed to be victims rather than co-conspirators in their own abuse.
Unfortunately, many schools have actually done away with such assemblies because it is now viewed as “sex ed,” which has suddenly become frowned upon. I blame the radical liberals, who promote passing out condoms to elementary school students, and pedophile groups that put in place their doctor friends, who promote teaching sex as a healthy form of communication and homosexuality as a character building experience. This has lead to a massive witch hunt on all forms of sexually based education, including bad touching seminars once held in grade school and date rape prevention assemblies in high school.
Currently, there is a movement to include preventative seminars in school curriculum. In New Jersey, it is called the Safe Dating Bill, and includes grades 7-12. There is, also, the Demi Brae Cuccia Bill (House Bill 2026) being voted on in Pennsylvania. For more information on other states pushing for educating our kids about dating violence, please visit the Love Is Not Abuse Curriculum form page.
Teaching our children, regardless of age, the dangers of violence and how to avoid it in whatever relationship they are in will prevent setting the stage for their future endeavors. It should NEVER be viewed as “Sex Ed” because rape is not about sexuality. It is about control, domination, anger. To compare rape to sex so favoritively sends the message to children and teens that they are one in the same. This must never be taught because it creates problems later in life when seaparating violence from sexual activity. It creates not only complacent victims but self-justified abusers.
Violence towards children attacks their self-esteem, their sense of dignity and self-worth. It permits other abusive personalities to enter their hearts and minds at will. I believe that most parents would never want to see their child become a victim and a statistic of any form of violence, or even on the other side of the situation as the abuser. Therefore, talking about this with our children is essential to their level of productivity as functioning members of society. They should be taught how not to become a victim and why not to become an abuser. This starts at home.
Regardless of what we gain in the form of school lessons on the subject, the hows and whys of dating violence should always be an open subject in every home. Children and Teens should never be afraid of discussing problems with bullies or bullying boyfriends with their parents, and telling a child to “deal with it,” “be a man,” “get over it,” etc… will only desensitize them and turn them into prime candidates for either a victim or an abuser.
Abuse always has a beginning, and that beginning is usually childhood. Spousal abusers don’t just start their violence after the wedding. They have a history and one that has gone unchecked long enough that they have it perfected to the point that it is normal to treat people that way. Victims who were never taught to be other than a victim become the spouse who is convinced there is nothing to be done other than live with the abuse.
Below is information and a comprehensive checklist to determine if your child or friend (or you) is involved in an abusive relationship.
I want to state now that although this information leans dramatically toward female victims, we must never forget there are male victims, as well. Not just in same-sex relationships but in heterosexual relationships. I’ve talked about this before as it stems from boys being taught it is never okay to hit a woman — even in self-defense, boys who were the daily victims of their mothers or were traumatized by watching their fathers abuse their mothers. There are many sites and groups dedicated to male victims now. Some links, like for Toy Soldiers, can be found on my Support page. It happens and no victim, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, should ever be mocked or ignored.
(The following information — unless otherwise noted — comes from Love Is Not Abuse, which covers a wide array of information on child, teen, and adult abuse. Please visit the site for more on all areas of abuse and help put a stop to it all!)
Dating violence isn’t an argument every once in a while, or a bad mood after a bad day.
Dating violence (or relationship abuse) is a pattern of violent behavior that someone uses against a girlfriend or boyfriend.
Abuse can cause injury or even death, but it doesn’t have to be physical. It can include verbal and emotional abuse—constant insults, isolation from friends and family, name calling, controlling what someone wears—and it can also include sexual abuse.
It can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter what race or religion they are, no matter what their level of education or economic background. Dating violence also occurs in same-sex relationships.
WARNING SIGNS OF DATING VIOLENCE:
1. Calls her names or puts her down in front of other people.
2. Extremely jealous when she talks to other boys.
3. She apologizes for his behavior and makes excuses for him.
4. She frequently cancels plans at the last minute for reasons that sound untrue.
5. He’s always checking up on her, paging her, calling her, and demanding to know where she has been and who she has been with.
6. You’ve seen him lose his temper, maybe even break or hit things when he is mad.
7. She seems worried about upsetting him or making him angry.
8. She’s giving up things that used to be important to her, such as spending time with friends or other activities.
9. Her weight, appearance, or grades have changed dramatically. These could be signs of depression, which could indicate abuse.
10. She has injuries she can’t explain, or the explanations she gives don’t make sense.
QUIZ WITH ANSWERS:
Which of the following could be considered a sign of relationship abuse?
- My boyfriend didn’t call me last night.
- My boyfriend called me a slut in front of his friends because I was wearing makeup.
- My boyfriend forgot our anniversaryWhich of the following is considered a crime?
- Relationship violence
- All of the aboveWhat kind of behavior could be considered relationship abuse?
- Keeping someone away from their friends or family
- Calling someone names
- Controlling what someone wears
- All of the aboveWhat percentage of teenage girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their own age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend?
- 40%I think a friend of mine might be in a violent relationship. What should I do?
- Take her shopping
- Talk to her, ask if everything’s okay, in a calm non-judgmental way
- Have your boyfriend beat up her boyfriend
- Mind my own businessI think a friend of mine is hitting his girlfriend. What is the first thing I should do?
- Sit down with him one-on-one, in a quiet place, and start talking to him about it.
- Go immediately to a school counselor
- Don’t say anythingIf everyone said you and your boyfriend were a cute couple but he was starting to get violent, what could you do?
- Talk to a friend
- Talk to a parent
- Talk to a teacher, counselor or another trusted adult
- All of the aboveWhat can you do if you end a violent relationship, but your ex-boyfriend keeps trying to see you?
- Explain your situation to an adult you can trust
- Avoid situations where you might see your ex
- Call the police if you are threatened or if you feel afraid
- All of the above
TALKING TO ADULTS
We all want to solve our problems on our own. And we don’t want to get anyone in trouble, or betray a friend’s confidence.
But sometimes these things are too big to handle all by ourselves, and it can be a big relief to involve a trusted adult.
Who should you talk to? “It depends on the situation,” says Wiseman. “Sit somewhere quietly with your friend and come up with the right person together. Write down what you need from the adult, what you want them to be like. Make sure they have your best interests at heart. It might be a parent, a teacher, a school counselor, a coach, or a friend’s parent. Chart out all the adults you know and figure out who is your best ally.”
If you think your friend is in physical danger, but she doesn’t want to seek any help, go ahead and tell an adult you trust yourself. “If you think she’s at serious risk,” says Wiseman, “tell her you are going to go to an adult, and then do it.”
If you are concerned that a friend is being abusive, it can also be helpful to talk to an adult, either with your friend or by yourself if he doesn’t admit the problem or refuses to go with you. Go to an adult you trust, one who you think will get your friend the help he needs and stick by you and support you for talking to them.
WHY DATING VIOLENCE HAPPENS
A guy doesn’t usually start hitting his girlfriend out of the blue – it generally starts after a history of verbal and emotional abuse; cutting her down, telling her she’s fat or ugly, chipping away at her sense of self-worth. Typically by the time the physical violence begins, her self-esteem is seriously damaged. When she doesn’t value herself, it is more likely that she’ll accept and put up with the physical abuse. Once her self-esteem has been broken down, it can be even harder for her to leave the relationship.
There are lots of other reasons why it can be difficult to get out of a violent relationship.
Usually, violence isn’t constant but comes in cycles, with a “honeymoon” period after the violent episode when the batterer says that he’s sorry and that it will never happen again.
The victim might really love the guy – she probably just wants the violence to end, not the whole relationship. She may also think that she can change him.
And we all know what peer pressure feels like. What your friends think of us really does matter, and we want to feel accepted. Girls can gain a lot of social status for being in a relationship – and letting that go can be hard to do. Couples often share the same friends, and if they break up and let people know what’s going on, what are their friends going to do? Choose one over the other? What if they don’t believe her? What if they choose him? Boys who are violent in private can appear to be calm and caring in public.
There’s still a lot of shame in this society around admitting you have been abused. It takes a lot of courage to end any relationship. If there’s violence involved, it can take a whole lot more.
WHY DOES HE DO IT?
It’s not easy being a guy these days. Society puts all kinds of pressure on boys, right from the day they’re born. They are bombarded with messages from popular culture and sometimes from their families about how they should behave and what it means to be a man; real men don’t cry; real men take charge; they must be tough, strong, breadwinners, know how to fight, never openly show affection for another male, play sports even when they are hurt… on and on and on. Some boys learn that being a real man means dominating or controlling their partner.
Sometimes guys don’t learn how to express or manage their emotions, they only know how to be happy or angry.
They certainly know it’s not okay to feel sad, needy, or powerless. Sometimes in relationships with girls, boys act out their feelings of insecurity or confusion with aggression. This lets them regain or maintain their power and control in the relationship. And sometimes, it’s not about emotions at all, it’s about being dominant.
You’ve got to be tough to keep the girl.
Men need to be strong and have money.
Men have power over women.
Men are supposed to be the dominant sex.
He’s so strong!
She’s hot… why haven’t you had sex with her yet?
A real man doesn’t get pushed around by a girl
From a recent article in the Cherokee Tribune:
- Peer acceptance of dating violence is a big part of the problem, Ms. Shelnutt said.
- Ms. Shelnutt pointed to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2009 report on teen dating violence, which notes one in four adolescents report verbal, physical, mental or emotional abuse from a partner each year
- At the Cherokee Family Violence Center last year, Ms. Shelnutt said, out of 1,080 victims receiving help, 89 were between the ages of 15 and 19, and 124 were between the ages of 10 and 14.
- Teen dating violence, she said, is “underreported” in Cherokee because teenagers don’t confide in parents or other adults, but keep information between themselves.
- Signs of violence in a teenage relationship mirror that of adults’ domestic violence, such as physical abuse (including sleep deprivation by using text messaging to harass a partner between midnight and 5 a.m.); emotional abuse (controlling who a partner can socialize with and their wardrobe); sexual and verbal abuse.Ms. Shelnutt said teens who witness abuse at home or abuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to exhibit violent behavior.
- She also informs parents to look for sudden isolation in their teens, such as only spending time with one person instead of their friends.
- The use of technology is becoming more and more prevalent in teen dating violence.
- Ms. Shelnutt said many teens in abusive relationships are bombarded with numerous text messages, calls and e-mails from partners, demanding to know where they are what they are doing and who they are with. She also said social networking sites such as Facebook are used to stalk partners.While a student, Jackie (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) was in a “controlling” relationship with a boy who attended school with her.
Jackie spent most of her time with her boyfriend and said things were great in the beginning. Then her boyfriend got into drugs and began to change.
Jackie said he would lash out at her and told her who she was allowed to talk to. She was forced to cut all ties with her friends that were boys and was limited to only associating with a small number of girlfriends.
“It grew from there,” she said. “It was like walking on eggshells toward the end of our relationship.”
Jackie suffered from physical abuse at the hands of her boyfriend. One day, she said, he “snapped” and started choking her. Jackie said she thinks he was trying to break her neck.
“It was like he was proud of it,” she said, adding he later repeatedly apologized for his actions.
After accepting his apology and resuming the relationship, it was great for a month, but then her boyfriend resorted to using violence against her again.
Unable to take any more, Jackie finally told him that they were done.
“He would say, ‘No you’re not,'” she added. “He knew every way to manipulate me. It was sickening.”
Jackie stuck by her word and cut off all contact with him. That didn’t stop him, as he would send her numerous text messages and repeatedly call her cell phone and leave voice messages. He hacked into her Facebook and e-mail accounts and changed her password.
He followed her while driving to a friend’s house at night and flashed his headlights into her back window.
“There was no stopping him,” she said.
Her boyfriend, she said, threatened to kill her and showed up at her place of employment. Jackie said he eventually was arrested and pleaded guilty to making terroristic threats.
Jackie said the relationship blinded her ability to see clearly, even though family and friends spoke up, but now she “has this freedom.”
She also has a message for other young women in her situation.
“If anyone tries to make you change and tell you what you can do or who you can hang out with, that’s a main warning sign,” she said. “They should love you for who you are and like you for who you are.”
IN RESPONSE TO THE ALARMING RATES of teen dating abuse through technology and the severe knowledge gap between parents and their teens, the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) and Liz Claiborne Inc. joined together to launch LOVEISRESPECT.ORG, NATIONAL TEEN DATING ABUSE HELPLINE (NTDAH).
This 24-hour national web-based and telephone resource was created to help teens (ages 13 – 18) experiencing dating abuse and is the only helpline in the country serving all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Although there are national hotlines for adults, teens have special needs and require specific expertise, information and communication mechanisms for overcoming dating violence. Cumulative research from the NDVH indicates that 10 percent of the 17,000 calls answered monthly at the Hotline are from teenagers and young adults.
The first of its kind, NTDAH will operate via telephone and Web 24 hours a day and will be staffed by both teen and adult advocates. Teens (and parents) anywhere in the country can call toll free, 866-331-9474 or log on to the interactive website, loveisrespect.org, and receive immediate, confidential assistance. The site will offer secure, live interactive chat to teens, which will present them with a familiar technology and an accessible means for communication. While online or on the phone, teens will be given support as well as referrals to local resources in their hometown to provide them with the help they need.
PHONE: 866.331.9474 (866-331-8453 for the Deaf, Deaf-Blind and Hard of Hearing)
WEBSITE: A live, interactive website – loveisrespect.org – provides a safe, confidential online resource for teens to ask questions, share experiences or express their feelings. The site features live interactive, instant chat with advocates. There are also message boards, blogs as well as other valuable information to help teens cope with and understand healthy dating behavior and relationships.
HOURS OF OPERATION: Trained volunteer and professional advocates are on staff 24 hours a day. Teen peer advocates staff the helpline and website during a block of time each day.
STAFFING: Trained peer volunteers between the ages of 16 – 24 provide advocacy during the peak hours of noon-2:00 a.m. (4:00 p.m. to midnight from February-May 2007). Trained adult advocates provide assistance to peer advocates as well as overflow assistance and staffing during off-peak hours.
TRAINING: All volunteers have received more than 40 hours of training from current NDVH supervisory staff, survivors of teen violence and other experts in the field. Additionally, advocates receive ongoing advanced training for issues related to violence to further assist teens in dealing with relationships.
CONFIDENTIALITY: NTDAH will not collect or maintain data that will compromise confidentiality such as IP addresses or caller ID. NTDAH will make all efforts to ensure that information is anonymous & confidential including training of staff to assure that privacy is of utmost concern.