Teens face dating violence

May 3, 2009 8:41:21 PM PDT
Dating violence runs across all racial, gender and socioeconomic lines. The problem is mostly associated with adults. But it can also happen with teenagers. Those abusive relationships are often overlooked, ignored, and swept under the rug. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

"At first, it started off with like just cursing," recalled "Sue." "And then like, he'll like push and then he'll just hit, so it escalated."

She's only 19 years old. To protect her identity, we'll call her "Sue." She says the nightmare she lived through with her boyfriend in high school is not far from her mind.

Sue said, "He had hung me out of my bedroom window, whatever. And he was like, "B", before you leave, I'll kill you."

He controlled her life.

"What to wear and what not to wear," Sue explained. "Who I can talk to and who I can't talk to."

All warning signs, experts say, of an abusive relationship, and a "dirty little secret" for an alarming number of teenage girls. According to the US Bureau of Justice, about one in three high school girls have been, or will be pushed, slapped or hit by a boyfriend. And 40 percent of girls between the ages of 14 and 17 know someone their age who has been abused.

So how does a teen know if their relationship has the potential to turn abusive? The experts say there are several key warning signs:

  • Has he ever trapped you in a room and not let you out?
  • Has he ever made aggressive moves toward you like raising a fist or putting his hand over your mouth?
  • Has he ever thrown anything at you?

  • And there's more...

    "If he starts isolating you. If he starts shoving you. If he starts doing hand gestures. If you see him hurting animals," explained psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini. "If you see him using abusive, foul language at you, calling you names, you better get out of there."

    Since the recent case involving music stars Rihanna and Chris Brown, Rapini believes more teens are starting to talk.

    She said, "They're real curious. How she could stay in this relationship?"

    Chris Brown has publicly stated that as a child he saw his stepfather abuse his mother. Rapini and other experts say young men who grow up in abusive homes often repeat the behavior with a girlfriend or spouse.

    "Ninety percent of abusers saw abuse as kids or were abused," Rapini said. "I think we have to change (the thought process) among women and men. There is never a reason to hit."

    According to a survey by the National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiative, 81 percent of parents say they do not believe dating violence is an issue, and 54 percent admit they have not even spoken to their child about dating violence.

    Another victim, "Ann," said, "I just woke up and looked around and I was like, I don't want to live like this no more, you know."

    A victim who we'll call "Ann", never got the message either when she was a teen. She went on to marry her boyfriend. Ann says she was abused for almost a decade.

    She recalled, "I stayed in the house. I didn't go anywhere. I was just miserable. I had so much negativity coming off me, you know. And I didn't want to be around anybody."

    But the last time he attacked her, she said 'no more.' She travelled 2,000 miles with her three kids to save her life.

    "This time it was in front of company and it got physical," Ann said. "My kids were upstairs crying. They were screaming and to me that was just too much."

    Ann now says she's starting a new life. And so is Sue. Both are stepping forward to pass on this warning to other young girls.

    "It might get the point where you lose your life," Sue cautioned. "And no man is worth your life."

    Here are some resources to help you determine if you could be in a dangerous situation. You can also visit a teen dating violence website.

    How do I know if I am dating a person who will become physically abusive?

    1. Has he (research indicates the majority of abusers are male) ever trapped you in a room and not let you out?
    2. Does he make gestures that are aggressive, like raising a hand, or putting his hand over your mouth?
    3. Has he ever thrown anything at you?
    4. Does he hit walls or slam doors?
    5. Does he rage while driving, or when you are telling him how you are feeling?
    6. Has he ever hit anyone you have seen, or hurt an animal?
    7. Has he ever restrained or held you down?
    8. Has he ever shoved, hit, or grabbed you?
    9. Does he talk with anger and swear frequently?
    10. Has he ever threatened you?

    How do I get away from an abusive relationship?

    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 names he tells you or 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 a mom or over 25 years old tell your doctor. They will help you report him.
    3. Make a plan and tell two of your best friends what that plan is and where you will be. Make sure you can escape quickly. Pack your things (and/or your children's) and put 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 no one can cause another person to hurt us. 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 building your self-esteem so you will never find yourself in this sort of relationship again. No woman deserves this type of relationship and no child should ever have to grow up in it.

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