If you have a teenaged girl as I do, then you know that dating and “first loves” come with a variety of problems and emotional upheavals.
But did you know that dating can also come with some far more serious issues than the jealousy of friends and broken hearts?
When you hear the term “domestic abuse,” you probably think of it as something that only applies to adults, and more so, that it involves married couples. But the reality is that abusive teen relationships are much more common than you might think!
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey looking at teen dating found that 1 out of 11 girls and 1 out of 15 boys have experienced physical dating violence in the past year, and 1 out of 9 girls have experienced sexual dating violence.
At the core of most abusive relationships is that one person is working to control the other person. They exert this control by humiliating and criticizing them, by cutting them off from other people in their life and isolating them, by controlling their whereabouts, their clothing, their way of appearing and their sexual behavior. By chipping away at any self-esteem, self-respect, and source of support they become the center of the other person’s world.
According to the CDC, dating violence comes in many forms. It may be outright physical violence, but it can also be pressure to perform sexual acts that the teen is not comfortable with, use of emotional aggression in the form of name-calling and criticism, as well as pressure to dress a certain way, to get rid of friends or relationships with family, to constantly report where they are and with whom they’re spending their time, or even stalking.
Signs Your Teen May Be Experiencing Dating Abuse
So, how can you as a parent know if your child might be trapped in an abusive relationship? Some of the signs to look for include:
- A shift away from friends and activities that they really used to enjoy.
- Slipping grades at school.
- Excessive time spent texting, checking in with or being with their partner.
- Often apologizing to the partner or for the partner with excuses.
- Seeming afraid of making the partner mad.
- Covering up possible injuries by dressing in new ways.
Abusive relationships often lead to depression, and even suicidal thinking, as a teen fears they are trapped and can’t tolerate but can’t leave their situation. Without intervention, teens who are in abusive relationships often go on to be in other abusive relationships later in life.
If you notice any of these “red flags” that may indicate that your teen is in an abusive relationship, it’s best to speak directly with your teen about the situation. A teen who is being abused needs to get out, immediately. This is true whether they are male or female, and no matter what type of abuse is going on.
Has your child been a victim of dating abuse? How did you handle it? Please reply in the comments below.