If you are a teenager wondering what a violent or abusive relationship looks like…It may start with teasing and name calling (which often looks “normal”), but can progress over time to more serious violence and sometimes rape. Your boyfriend or girlfriend may call you names, embarrass you on purpose, keep you away from your family and friends, make you feel bad about yourself, shove you, threaten you, hit you, or force you to engage in sexual acts even after you express your desire not to. Teen Dating Violence is a type of “intimate partner violence”. More than 4 in every 10 incidents of domestic violence involve non-married people… including teenagers (Bureau of Justice Special Report; Intimate Partner Violence, May 2000). The goal is to stop dating violence before it starts by recognizing the early warning signs of potential abuse. You have choices and you deserve to be treated with respect. No one deserves to be abused or threatened.
These are some early warning signs that your date may become abusive:
- Checking your cell phone or e-mail without permission
- Extreme jealousy
- Explosive anger
- Isolates you from family and friends
- Always telling you what to do
- Blames you for his feelings or the problems in the relationship
- Verbally abusive
- Has abused previous partners
- Unpredictable mood swings
- Putting you down constantly
- Cruel to animals or children
- Wants quick involvement to a relationship
- Uses force during an argument
- Threatens violence
Teenage dating violence often goes unrecognized for a number of reasons. Teenagers are new to dating and inexperienced with relationships. They don’t have a lot of relationship history to know what is “normal” and what is not. Because they want independence from their parents they may not want to talk to their parents about their relationship. Young women often misinterpret a young man’s jealousy and possessiveness as “love.” Women often feel responsible for trying to solve the problems in a relationship, especially if she is being put down by her partner (which is a form of power and control). Because 1 in 4 teenagers have experienced dating violence, if teenagers are not talking to their parents or another trusted adult, they may think the abuse is “normal” because some of their friends may also be experiencing abuse.
While this is an exciting time in your life and you will be meeting many new, wonderful people, it is important that you be aware of teen dating violence so you can experience the happiness that healthy relationships bring… and avoid the ones that don’t. If you are experiencing violence in your dating relationship, talk to an adult and plan a safe way out of the relationship. “Love” is not jealousy and explosive anger expressed by your partner. You are not responsible for his outbursts and nothing you do can change him. Take care of yourself. Most importantly, if something doesn’t feel right to you trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation.