By Mary Jo Rapini
February is teen violence awareness month, and with Chris Brown’s recent court date following abuse charges from his girlfriend Rhianna, it draws out attention to the topic of abuse and dating. A recent study among college students reports that more than one out of three teens was a victim of dating violence with more than one partner. This abuse included physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. The ages of the abuse were typically 13 to 19 years of age. Overall, nearly two-thirds of both men and women reported some type of abuse during their teenage years. According to the study, this number was derived from the fact that more than one third of all the kids who had one abusive partner dated another abusive partner. This suggests that teens may become locked into certain behaviors and attract that same type of characteristic or person again. Possibly due to the young age they were while dating, what they were experiencing between their parent’s behavior at home, and what they saw among other friends.
For many teens in the above study and everywhere the biggest problem with abuse is the isolation that keeps it going. Teens do not have the dating experience or the understanding of how dangerous this person can become. Teens also have an attitude that they know more than they do, and that they are invincible. Their distorted thinking at the time becomes more and more distorted as the abuser degrades them with lies, and yells at them. If you are a parent, teacher or teen who recognizes any of these behaviors in someone your child dates or you date, it is time to make changes.
1. Has he/she ever trapped you in a room and not let you out?
2. Does he/she make gestures that are aggressive, such as raising a hand or putting their hand over your mouth?
3. Has he/she ever thrown anything at you?
4. Does he/she hit walls or slam doors?
5. Does he/she rage while driving or when you are telling them how you are feeling?
6. Has he/she ever hit anyone you have seen or hurt an animal?
7. Has he/she ever restrained or held you down?
8. Has he/she ever shoved, hit, or grabbed you?
9. Does he/she talk with anger and swear frequently?
10. Has he/she ever threatened you?
Abusers use a tactic to keep you under control. This tactic isolates their victim and makes them feel depressed and worthless. No matter what they tell you or why they say they do this, it is important that you recognize it isn’t normal. No one who loves you will want to do things that make you feel lonely or sad. Below are tips to help you plan your breakup and escape. You do need to escape from teen dating abuse. There is no way you can love the person through this. They need medical as well as psychological attention.
1. Remind yourself that this person is not being honest with you. He will tell you it won’t happen again or he was under stress, etc. No matter what degrading names he calls you do not let yourself believe these things. He is trying to humiliate you so he can control you further.
2. If you are a teen, tell your mom or someone you trust. It is better if you tell an adult. This is not something you can fight on your own. If you are over 25 or a mother, tell your doctor. They will help you report him.
3. Make a plan with your mom, teacher, or a best friend and make sure everyone knows what that plan is and where you will be. Make sure you can escape quickly. Have your things packed (if you have a child, pack their things as well) and store them in a safe place. Do not tell the abuser where you are going.
4. Do not look back. He will tell you that it is your fault, but remember that no one can cause another person to hurt you. He has a problem managing anger and the only option for him is to get help.
5. Recognize this person has led you to believe you are nothing without them. You actually will be so much better without him. The road to recovery is not easy, but there will be people to help you. Just don’t go back!
6. Counseling is so important for your healing. It will be important to find out why you thought you ever deserved this sort of partner and to begin rebuilding your self-esteem.
It is important that parents talk to their tweens and teens about healthy relationships. Explain to them what healthy relationships are and are not. Below are a few suggestions to begin the dialogue for parents.
* You feel good about you. You know you are in a healthy relationship because you feel good about yourself when you are around this person. This person builds you up and makes you feel positive about yourself. They don’t lie to you or distort the truth, but they reframe your negative comments about yourself in a way that encourages you to admire yourself. Unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, make you feel guilty, angry, scared, and/or worried.
* Healthy relationships involve give and take. There is a balance, and it must feel equal. Unhealthy relationships may feel like you are giving the other person more attention than they are giving you.
* Healthy relationships make you feel safe. You feel like you can completely be yourself. You don’t have to try and be something you are not. Your partner understands your mood and your need for alone time. You can trust this person with your secrets. If you cannot trust the person with private thoughts, or this person makes fun of you or teases you about things you hold sacred, then you may want to “rethink” if this person is someone you want to have a relationship with.
Healthy relationship are about feeling good about who YOU are and feeling SAFE. Don’t settle for less, because deciding who to have a relationship with is one of the most precious gifts you will ever give yourself. You have everything you need to create healthy relationships, and can experience one by paying attention to who you are inside and what makes you happy. Get to know yourself first, and then identifying what you want in another will be easier. As with all relationship matters, the most sacred of all relationships is the one we have with ourselves. –Mary Jo Rapini
No boy or girl deserves this type of relationship and no child should ever have to grow up in it. –Mary Jo Rapini