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Educating Teens on Dating Violence
 
The age of dating violence is getting younger and younger. Children are experiencing dating violence as early as 11 years old. It is so important that we educate young people about this very important topic. Many who are abused are embarrassed to say anything about it. Most don't tell adults as they fear that the adults will take over, gossip about it or do nothing at all. Research shows that adolescents who did tell an adult about being victimized by severe dating violence were more likely to receive an avoidance response than those who told about less severe dating violence. Youth need training in how to respond helpfully to friends' difficulties with dating violence, especially if it is severe.  Peers also need help learning how and when to encourage victims to seek help from trained practitioners. 
Some teens view dating violence as normal or even as a sign that their partner "cares". 
 
What Friends Can Do
What would you do if you thought your friend was in an abusive relationship?

Most of the time, violence takes place when the couple is alone. You might not see dramatic warning signs like black eyes and broken bones. So, how can you tell for sure? For one thing, listen to your instincts. You probably wouldn't be worried without good reason.

Here are some warning signs to look for that might mean your friend is in trouble and needs your help:

  1. Their boyfriend/girlfriend calls them names or puts them down in front of others.
  2. Their boyfriend/girlfriend acts extremely jealous when they talk to friends of the opposite sex, even when it is completely innocent.
  3. Your friend often cancels plans at the last minute, for reasons that sound untrue.
  4. Your friend frequently apologizes for their boyfriend/girlfriend.
  5. You friend's boyfriend/girlfriend is constantly checking upon them, calling or texting, and demanding to know where they have been.
  6. You've seen the boyfriend/girlfriend lose their temper, maybe even get violent when they're mad.
  7. Your friend is always worried about upsetting their boyfriend/girlfriend.
  8. Your friend is giving up things that used to be important to them, such as spending time with friends or other activities, and is becoming more and more isolated.
  9. Your friend's weight, appearance or grades have changed dramatically.
  10. Your friend has injuries they can't explain, or the explanations they give don't add up.  

Talking with a friend in an abusive relationship can make a big difference to them - whether they are being abused or being abusive. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what to say or how to say it, especially if you've never dealt with this issue before.

DO:

  • Listen first to what they have to say.
  • Talk to them in private and keep what they say confidential.
  • Let your friend know why you are concerned. Be specific. Refer to incidents you have personally witnessed instead of what you have heard from others.
  • Offer to get your friend information.
  • Mention other people your friend might talk to - a counselor, a teacher, or another adult they trust.
  • Let them know you are available to talk more if they need.
  • Give them the Love is Respect link:  www.loveisrespect.org   National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, number or website address.

DON'T:

  • Be judgmental.
  • Make them feel stupid or ashamed.
  • Ask lots of yes or no questions. Give your friend a chance to talk freely.
  • Force your friend to make a decision or give ultimatums. They have to decide when they are ready to get help or end their relationship. You can't do it for them.
Signs of Violence: Teen Power and Control
  • Peer Pressure - Threatening to expose someone's weakness or spread rumors. Telling malicious lies about an individual to peer group.
  • Anger/Emotional Abuse - Putting partner down. Making partner feel bad about her or himself.  Name calling. Making partner think she/he is crazy. Playing mind games. Humiliating one another. Making partner feel guilty.
  • Isolation/Exclusion - Controlling what another person does, who partner sees and talks to, what she/he reads, where partner goes.  Limiting outside involvement. Using jealousy to justify actions.
  • Sexual Coercion - Manipulating or making threats to get sex. Getting her pregnant. Threatening to take the children away. Getting someone drunk or drugged to get sex.
  • Using Social Status - Treating partner like a servant. Making all the decisions. Acting like the "master of the castle". Being the one to define men's and women's roles.
  • Intimidation - Making someone afraid by using looks, actions, gestures. Smashing things. Destroying property. Abusing pets. Displaying weapons.
  • Minimize/Deny/Blame - Making light of the abuse and not taking concerns about it seriously. Saying the abuse didn't happen.  Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior. Saying she/he caused it.
  • Threats - Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt another. Threatening to leave, to commit suicide, to report partner to the police. Making her/him drop charges. Making partner do illegal things.
(Adapted and develped from "Teen Power and Control Wheel"; Prevention Researcher, 2/2009 www.TPRonline.org)
 
An excellent book that came out in 2016 is: We Believe You: Survivors of Campus Sexual Assualt Speak Out by Annie E. Clark and Andrea L Pino focuses on the 20% of young women and 5% of young men who suffer sexual assualt at college.
Survivors courageously speak out after decades of silence from school communities. 
 
 
 

lisa@griefspeaks.com
(973) 985-4503