The Realities of Teen Dating Violence and Ways to Move on

thTeen dating violence is a reality that many people fail to realize and even fewer talk about. Many parents of teens believe teen dating violence is not even an issue. However, approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.  I recently discovered that 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.

Lastly, many teens hold on to the delusion that their partner will change or that the violence was just a one-time thing. Once it does happen again – and it will – they make excuses or rationalize why it happened again. Trust me, if it happens once, it will happen again. Don’t let it. GET OUT IMMEDIATELY!

Take Action

Teens, be strong and break up with the person. Here’s how: Do it in person (if it’s safe), or do it over the phone. Just do it! Don’t listen to his (or her) apologies or excuses, and cut off communication with him. I understand this is easier said than done, especially if you go to school with him, you work with him, or you live near him. Keep your friends close during this time and lean on your parents. Teach yourself to be strong. Build a powerful shield around you, face your challenges, and speak up. Call a hotline if you feel more comfortable. Protect yourself. Do it for yourself, for your little sister, for the girl still in an abusive relationship. Let them draw strength from your resilience. Speaking out against the abuser shows huge strength and resiliency.

Dating violence is no joke. Tell someone immediately or ask their opinion if you feel unsure about something that was said or done to you. If you don’t feel safe telling a family member or a friend, call a website or a hotline. The call is anonymous and the people on the other end are trained professionals. They will not judge you, but they can talk you through the experience, help you decide how to move forward, and give you ways for ending the relationship safely.

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Support 

A great solution for someone who has suffered a traumatic experience is twofold. One, join a support group with other teen girls who’ve gone through similar situations. This will help you know you’re not alone, and surrounding yourself with others who can relate to the experience mentally and emotionally helps a lot. Ask a therapist about an appropriate group to join or start by calling your health plan. Chances are it has services and groups available to help you heal.

Two, get physical, but in a “mindful” way. What does that look like? It looks like yoga, meditation, tai chi, or dance. It grounds you and helps you reflect on yourself in a deeper way. I would encourage you to take a class at a gym, the YMCA, or another community recreational center. If you’re nervous about trying something like this because it’s new, bring a friend along. You can both go through the class and learning process together. Although you have a friend for support, you will still build independence and self-confidence. You will start to release the questions you had about why you stayed or why you second-guessed yourself. There’s something about the physical movement in these activities that helps victims reclaim their spirit and embrace themselves in a more loving way.

Remember, removing yourself from a violent relationship is the ultimate way to respect and love yourself.  Always put yourself first and leave. Remove from your mind any statements the abuser uses to make you stay such as, “It’ll never happen again,” “I love you,” or, “If you take me back it will be different.”  Sometimes it helps to write these statements down, let your anger build, and then rip them up or burn them one by one (but please do not set any illegal or unsupervised fires!). Throw the remains into your fireplace or a bonfire. As you do so, make a promise to always put yourself first.

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The Truth Behind Teen Dating Violence

My interview with a victim of teen dating violence.

Georgia is 16 years olds; into image, popularity and being cool.  She told me that she is probably considered a bully, but she “only speaks the truth to freshman and sophomore.”  She sees herself as helping them fit in better, which means conforming to the culture at this particular school. She said that the only way to survive is to bully or you become the bullied. Never show weakness is her motto. She has an identified clique that she hangs out with and they police each other heavily on what they say, dress, who they date, and where they go to “be seen.”  She doesn’t hang out with ugly people and only dates the popular boys. She likes to portray an air of confidence everywhere she goes. She says that she will never admit that she’s not good at everything. She says that her mom is definitely a tiger mom and that she is tough on her. Her mom is her role model. Her friends are tough on her as well, but she expects that because she is hard on them. She said that she judges people all the time and assumes they judge her as well. In her words “it’s part of life.”  We talked about how eating disorder are common among the girls she knows and how her best friend suffers from depression.  She told me that she sees a therapist weekly and began to explain her situation.  This is when she became very real to me in the interview and allowed herself to be vulnerable.  She talked about dating violence and how she was dating someone for 8 months that was abusive. She said that her therapist encourages her to talk about it now because her experience doesn’t define her, it’s simply something that happened to her.  Apparently, he was a popular boy at another school and they quickly became the “it couple.” She says that peer pressure really made her date him, but quickly image and perception made her stay.  She never told anyone that he was abusive because she was embarrassed and didn’t want her friends to know that things weren’t perfect. So, she stayed in the relationship and told her friends that everything was great.  The first time the abuse occurred, he pushed her down a flight of stairs. She told herself that it was a fluke/an accident because she was in shock by the situation and he apologized. He would follow the typical cycle of verbal and physical abuse then apologize profusely with gifts and flowers so she forgave him over and over. The last straw was when he held a broken bottle to her face for no reason.  She said that she went numb, “died a little” and can’t remember much of what happened next. She called her mom to come get her and finally told her about the abuse.  Her mom blames herself for not paying closer attention to the relationship and Georgia is still recovering. Her self-esteem has been hit a very big blow, but she is slowly on the mend. She still gets scared if a boy shows interest in her, but she feels that therapy is helping. She worries that maybe violence is what her future holds for her in relation to dating. This situation has completely skewed how she sees boys. Right now, she is completely confused by what a healthy relationship looks like.