Teen 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!
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.
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.