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Are there any signs of abuse in your teenager's relationship?

A recent study among college students reports that more than one out of three teenagers 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 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 person over and over--which is possibly due to their young age while dating, what teens were experiencing between their parent’s behavior at home and what they saw among friends.

For many teens, 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 an abusive person can become. Additionally, many teens believe they know more than they actually do, and they feel invincible. Their distorted thinking at the time becomes more and more distorted as the abuser degrades them with lies and yelling.

If you are a parent, teacher or teenager who recognizes abusive behaviors in someone you--or your child dates--it is time to make some changes.


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Do

Do ask important questions

When you suspect abuse, the following questions are crucial to ask of your teen:

  • Has he/she ever trapped you in a room and not let you out?
  • Does he/she make gestures that are aggressive, such as raising a hand or putting a hand over your mouth?
  • Has he/she ever thrown anything at you?
  • Does he/she hit walls or slam doors?
  • Does he/she rage while driving or when you are telling them how you are feeling?
  • Has he/she ever hit anyone you have seen or hurt an animal?
  • Has he/she ever restrained or held you down?
  • Has he/she ever shoved, hit or grabbed you?
  • Does he/she talk with anger and swear frequently?
  • Has he/she ever threatened you?

Do understand the tactics of an abuser

Abusers use numerous tactics to keep their victims under control. These strategies isolate their victims and make them feel depressed and worthless. No matter what an abuser tells you, it is extremely important for teens to recognize this behavior is not normal. No one who loves you should want to do things that make you feel lonely or sad.

Do help teens realize the need to end an abusive relationship

Teens must understand the need to escape from dating abuse. There is no way they can love the abuser through the abuse. Abusers need medical, as well as psychological, attention.

Do confide in a trustworthy adult

Teens must tell their parents or someone they trust about the abuse. It is best if this individual is an adult. This is not something that teens can or should tackle on their own.


Don't

Do not overlook the need to make an escape plan

Teens must develop a detailed escape plan with parents, teachers or close friends. Be sure that everyone knows what that plan is and where you will be. Ensure you can escape quickly. Have your things packed and store them in a safe place. Do not tell the abuser where you are going.

Do not look back

Abusers will likely tell you that the violence is your fault. But remember that no one can cause another person to hurt you. He/she has a problem managing anger and the only option for him/her is to get help. Don’t look back or doubt yourself.

Do not underestimate the importance of counseling

The road to recovery is not easy. However, there will be many people to help you along the way. Counseling is essential for your healing. It will be vital to find out why you thought you ever deserved this sort of partner and to begin rebuilding your self-esteem.

Do not forget to discuss healthy relationships with your teen

It is important that parents talk to their teens about healthy relationships. Explain to them what healthy relationships are--and what they are not. Parents can begin the dialogue by discussing the following topics:

  • Healthy relationships should make you feel good about yourself. This person builds you up and makes you feel positive about life. 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. On the other hand, unhealthy relationships 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 should 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, you may want to reconsider whether this person is someone you want to have a relationship with.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Teens must understand that healthy relationships are about feeling good and feeling safe. And they should never settle for less. Deciding whom to have a relationship with is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself. You have everything you need to create healthy relationships, and can experience one by paying attention to whom you are inside and what makes you happy.

It is essential for teens to get to know themselves. Only then can they identify what they want in another person. Remember that the most sacred of all relationships is the one we have with ourselves.


More expert advice about Raising Teens

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Mary Jo Rapini LPCLicensed Professional Counselor

Mary Jo Rapini is a licensed certified intimacy/sex relationship psychotherapist in private practice. Mary Jo serves as an intimacy/sex therapist for hospitals and clinics and evaluates patients for bariatric surgery in the Houston area. She wa...

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