February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
Dating Violence: A Teenager’s Nightmare…
Meg thought she had found the perfect boyfriend. He sent her flowers, gave her compliments and took her to the movies. It wasn’t long, though, that sweet talk gave way to insults and demands and then…physical abuse. Four months later, she found herself lying on the floor, an ice pack on her aching ribs. She had no idea where she was, at first, then her boyfriend came into focus. They were at a party and Mark her cute, football player boyfriend had kicked her into a wall, where she hit her head and passed out. “I woke up and he was standing over me,” Meg recalls. “I just wanted to get away.” Soon after, she was waiting in line at the family division of the Clerk of Court waiting to pick up a copy of a restraining order. “I never thought something like this would happen to me,” Meg now says.
Teen dating violence, a once hidden problem, is now getting some serious attention. In 2005, a CDC study found that 1 in 11 high school girls had been hit, punched or slapped by an intimate partner. According to a Harvard study, nearly 1 in 5 high school girls reported physical or sexual abuse in a relationship. This affects girls’ academic lives, lowers their standards for relationships and puts them a greater risk for unintended pregnancy and STDs. Without help, abusers and victims are more likely to repeat these behaviors as adults.
For girls who are able to escape abusive behavior, the trauma often lingers, lasting long after the actual incident. When Jen started dating Tom during her junior year, she was an A student. Tim showed a puppyish devotion that soon became something darker, even telling Jen how to dress. He began slapping her daily, leaving bruises she hid with sleeves. Jen thought she could help him…that Tim couldn’t help it. After an incident where Tim stomped her throat with steel-toed boots, Jen confided in her coach. Tim was arrested and charged with assault. Jen sought counseling and took antidepressants for months. She found it impossible to return to “normal”. Tim had been controlling her for so long. She eventually dropped out of school. Her parents installed a “panic button” so she could call police. Eventually, with tutoring, Jen graduated and enrolled in college. “I am trying to focus on myself right now,” she says. “Because before, I was lost.”
Two out of three teens in abusive relationship don’t ever tell, making it difficult for parents to know when their teen is a victim. There are warning signs to look for. Physical injuries, bruises, and illness brought on by stress can be indicators. A drop in grades and withdrawal from activities once enjoyed are signs of abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse can be either a cause or a sign. Changes in mood or personality, isolation from friends, withdrawal, emotional outbursts and acting more aggressively are all indicators of teen dating violence.
It is important to be aware of the warning signs. Teen years are difficult and secretive enough as it is. Approach your teen in a way that will make them feel comfortable talking to you. Let your teenager know that they can talk to you about anything, that they can come to you when they need help and that you will not judge them. Be a source of support for them.
For more information go to:
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline – http://www.loveisrespect.org
National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1-866-331-9474
LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office Victim Advocate: 318-992-2067
Open up the conversation: Break the Silence, End the Violence!