In our opening interview with a representative from the National Domestic Violence Hotline, we learned (if we hadn’t realized it before) that domestic abuse crosses all socio-economic lines. However, with the need for services like The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (loveisrespect.org), it is clear that domestic/dating abuse happens in various age demographics as well. Because many people experience their first relationships as teenagers, we thought it was important to get more information from an expert at the Helpline. Candice Hopkins, Director at loveisrespect.org (the National Dating Abuse Helpline) answers our questions below.
What are some warning signs to look for in teen abusers?
These are some behaviors that a teen who is abusive might exhibit in their relationship.
Using Social Status
A teen who is abusive will often display the following behaviors specifically:
• Call your girlfriend/boyfriend names?
• Text or call them excessively and get upset when they don’t respond?
• Monitor their email or profile on a social networking site?
• Feel you have a right or need to know where they are most of the time?
• Get jealous or angry when they spend time with friends or family?
• Ask them to change their clothes or style of dress?
• Get in their face during a disagreement?
• Push, slap, or punch them for any reason?
• Restrain them to keep them from leaving during an argument?
• Guilt or force them into having sex?
• Threaten to hurt them or yourself if your relationship ever ends?
If a teen exhibits the behavior in their youth what are the steps to take to keep them from being an abuser in adulthood.
If a young person has displayed abusive or controlling behaviors in their relationships and adults whether parents or other concerned adults have witnessed something or are concerned the first step is to acknowledge the behavior and initiate discussions of healthy relationships. There are limited counseling options available that a teen can be referred to but the best option is parental or other adult influencer involvement on establishing what appropriate and healthy behavior is. We believe that these conversations, interventions, and guidance can help impact the rates of adult domestic violence.
When you’re a teen, you are experiencing relationships for the first time – so how can someone know if/when they are being abused. How can they tell the difference between normal behavior and abuse if they’ve never been in a relationship before?
These are the most common warning signs we share with young people:
• Look at you or act in ways that scare you?
• Act jealous or possessive?
• Put you down or criticize you?
• Try to control where you go, what you wear or what you do?
• Text or IM you excessively?
• Blame you for the hurtful things they say and do?
• Threaten to kill or hurt you or themselves if you leave them?
• Try to stop you from seeing or talking to friends and family?
• Try to force you to have sex before you’re ready?
• Do they hit, slap, push or kick you?
Most young people contact loveisrespect because they recognize “something doesn’t feel right” in their relationship. They often do not recognize the warning signs until we are discussing their relationship. Even those who have not been in relationships describe that something said or done to make them uncomfortable, or that a friend or family member expressed concern. Most of the conversations had with young people is around discussion of the warning signs of an unhealthy relationships.
What is the first thing you would tell a parent who suspects that their child is being abused?
If a parent contacts loveisrespect we discuss with them the dynamics of teen dating abuse and validate their concerns. Most parents are seeking information and support about how to talk to their teen about their concerns. We offer suggestions on how to start a conversation with their teen and how to use our web site, events in the media, or curriculums covered in schools as jump off points. In addition we go through safety planning options including discussions on whether or not a parent should make their teen break up with the abusive person, should a parent limit technology, and what the parents’ legal rights and options.
What, in your experience, have been some of the most prevalent myths teens have about abuse?
Many of myths of teen dating abuse are similar to those of adult domestic violence. It is believed teen dating abuse is not a problem in middle and upper middle class schools and environments. That violence is seen only in lower SES schools. Many people believe that teen dating abuse is only the physical and do not acknowledge or recognize the emotionally abusive and controlling behaviors are such a large part of an abusive relationship. Another myth is that the abused in the relationship is either to blame or some aspect of the abuse or has done something wrong by not leaving the relationship. For teens, peer pressure and the social strata of high school deeply impact this myth. In addition, a myth of teen dating abuse is that it is a recent phenomenon. The recent media attention due to celebrities involved in teen dating abuse and the use of technology have created a myth that this is a new issue, but there have always been teens involved in abusive relationship but there is more attention and focus applied at this time. This creates great opportunities for education and awareness.
To learn more, please visit - Love is Respect.