Adolescence Recovery

Are You a Victim of Dating Violence?

Dating violence comes from a desire to control a partner; it is an issue of maintaining a vertical hierarchy, believing that their role in the relationship is to “be in charge”–to “wear the pants,” so to speak.  Abusive behavior is a result of learning from a dysfunctional source: A child who grows up watching their father dominate their mother is more apt to do the same when they are in relationship. A child who grows up witnessing violence begins to think violence is normal and acceptable. When we learn something from a skewed perspective, our norms become skewed as a result. Additionally, when someone learns about sexuality via abuse, they are more apt to sexually abuse a partner. When someone learns to communicate by witnessing domination and control, they will eventually use the same dysfunctional means of communication.

There are higher rates of mental health and substance abuse issues in teens who have been victims of violence or who are delegators of violence. It’s not uncommon for those suffering from addiction and mental health issues to have an underlying band of trauma from violence weaving its way through the psyche. Deep, untended fear is often expressed through violence and efforts to control people, places, and things. This results in teen dating violence having a big impact. is a site dedicated to raising awareness about dating violence through education, community, and action. The statistics around dating violence are significant. Loveisrespect has provided hard facts supported by research and empirical evidence which I am including here:

  • Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
  • One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
  • One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.
  • Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
  • The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
  • About 72% of eighth and ninth graders are “dating.”
  • Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, and further domestic violence.
  • Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a STI.
  • Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.

There is a lack of awareness regarding teen dating violence. Paralyzed with fear and embarrassment, many teens don’t say anything to anyone. Asking for help is regarded as shameful, fear of retaliation is overwhelming, and because there is little knowledge about legal ramifications, many stay quiet.

  • Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.
  • 81% percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
  • A teen’s confusion about the law and their desire for confidentiality are two of the most significant barriers stopping young victims of abuse from seeking help.

You also can refer to this Circle of Violence; it breaks down each type of domestic violence and action that take place. None of these are acceptable or deserved. Small problems can become large problems faster than the blink of an eye so it’s important that we seek help and begin the process of extricating ourselves from violent situations. Start with finding one person who is safe, who believes you, and who can advocate for you. Stay away from those who victim-blame, telling you it’s your fault or asking if you are “sure” it’s true, and from people who deny your reality. Getting out is scary; it takes a serious act of bravery to move toward safety. But there are people who will help you. There is a way out. You deserve much, much better.















Bullying Sexuality

Love Doesn’t Hurt

(Image by Tayrawr Fortune via Flickr)

Teen dating is rite of passage. It’s part the induction into young adulthood, and the ground on which we begin to build the foundations of having a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, “healthy” isn’t always part of the equation, and as we come to the end of February, National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, I thought it apropos to talk about what happens if/when a relationship goes awry. As if navigating adolescence wasn’t hard enough as it is, right?
Domestic violence is an insidious beast. It’s not always obvious to outsiders and can often go undetected until it’s too late. There’s a huge element of shame associated with being on the receiving end, as well as an untenable fear of incurring further abuse. Truthfully, it’s another form of bullying, and a bully’s usual tactic is to threaten their victim with fatalistic consequences, ultimately forcing the victim to suffer in silence, isolate, and not ask for help.

Some signs that someone may be experiencing dating violence are:

    • Physical signs of injury
    • Truancy, dropping out of school
    • Failing grades
    • Indecision
    • Changes in mood or personality
    • Use of drugs/alcohol
    • Pregnancy
    • Emotional outbursts
    • Isolation

Signs that your dating partner may eventually become violent:

    • Extreme jealousy
    • Controlling behavior
    • Quick involvement
    • Unpredictable mood swings
    • Alcohol and drug use
    • Explosive anger
    • Isolates you from friends and family
    • Uses force during an argument
    • Shows hypersensitivity
    • Believes in rigid sex roles
    • Blames others for his problems or feelings
    • Cruel to animals or children
    • Verbally abusive
    • Abused former partners
    • Threatens violence

Because teens often romanticize intimate relationships (particularly this generation, which has grown up watching glorified, sexualized violence in television, film, and media), there is an inherent  belief among boys that their masculinity is defined by aggression, while girls often see their role as problem solver and passive. These attitudes fundamentally perpetuate the problem of gender inequality which so often leads to the abuse of power and the use of control in relationships.

If you are experiencing any facet of dating/domestic violence, please seek help. There are anonymous, 24-hour helplines available to you, your teachers and parents will help you, you just have to speak up. You don’t deserve to be abused. Love is respect, and it certainly shouldn’t hurt.

Adolescence Bullying

Dating Violence: Where’s the R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Domestic violence doesn’t play the race card, class card, or age card–it has no boundaries: it thrives on dominance and control. In teens, it’s referred to as dating violence, a type of intimate partner violence, wherein a partner is pinched, hit, shoved, or kicked; they are often shamed, called names, bullied, embarrassed with intent, and isolated from friends and family; they are sometimes forced to engage in non-consensual sex. When started early in one’s life, these relationships can lead to a pattern of abuse as they grow older. If intimacy is learned through violence and fear, then violence and fear become the normative behavior, making healthy interactions seem foreign and perhaps even uncomfortable. Sometimes the initial teasing and name-calling that occur are considered normal, but often times, they are just the opening act leading to more serious violence like battering and/or rape.

This is a serious issue, but sadly, teens don’t usually report dating violence for fear of what friends or family may think. The fact is, it’s happening with more and more frequency, and to more people than we care to admit. These statistics from the CDCspeak volumes:

  • 1 in 4 adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year
  • About 10% of students nationwide report being physically hurt by a boyfriend of girlfriend in the past 12 months

According to the US Department of Justice, “Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group,” and according to the Empower Program, sponsored by Liz Claiborne, “A majority of parents (54%) admit they’ve not spoken to their child about dating violence.” So, while this behavior is often recognized (and yet ignored) amongst teens, the parental knowledge base seems scanty at best. Parents are afraid to talk about it, and kids are afraid to go to their parents; that’s a double-negative detrimental to affecting change of any kind, now isn’t it! The CDC lists warning signs for someone at risk for using dating violence–recognizing these signs early may help stop the cycle of abuse before it can start:

  • Poor social skills;
  • Inability to manage anger and conflict;
  • Belief that using dating violence is acceptable;
  • Having more traditional beliefs about male and female roles;
  • Witnessing violence at home;
  • Alcohol use;
  • Having behavioral problems in other areas;
  • Having a friend involved in dating violence;
  • Witnessing violence in the community.

Other things we can do is foster positive, healthy relationships with our children, model loving behavior in the home, and talk about what’s going on with our kids or within the community regarding violence, even if it’s scary! Because if we don’t talk about it, our kids are ultimately at risk for trying to “fix” their problem with things like drugs and alcohol, and that’s just going to create another layer of dysfunctionality, opening more doors for despair to flourish.

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