As parents, we have an inherent need to protect our children and keep them safe. We teach them to trust their instincts and empower them to say “no” when something doesn’t feel right. Maintaining a healthy, communicative relationship where our children feel trusted and supported will help them grow up to be assertive, self-aware individuals, right? Easier stated than created – especially with teenagers.
At an age when privacy is king sometimes the last person your teen wants to talk to about personal stuff, like dating relationships, is you. And let’s face it it’s not always our favorite topic of discussion either, especially if your child is of the opposite sex. But back to the beginning, it’s our job to protect our children and talking about what constitutes a healthy, respectful relationship vs. an abusive relationship is a conversation you need to start and continue.
Dating abuse is a serious problem, affecting youth in every community across the nation. According to Break the Cycle, one in three teens in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. Physical signs such as bruises or other unexplained injuries can be a telltale sign that your teen has been affected, however, it’s not always that obvious.
According to the Love is Not Abuse campaign, your teen may have an abusive partner if:
- Apologizes and/or makes excuses for his/her partner’s behavior.
- Loses interest in activities that he/she used to enjoy.
- Stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.
- Casually mentions the partner’s violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.
- Often provides explanations that don’t make sense.
Your Teen’s Partner:
- Calls your teen names and puts him/her down in front of others.
- Acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to your teen.
- Thinks or tells your teen that you, the parent(s), don’t like them.
- Controls your teen’s behavior, checking up constantly, calling or texting, and demanding to know who he/she has been with.
- See the partner violently lose their temper, striking or breaking objects.
What can you do if you suspect that your teen is in an abusive relationship?
- Express your concern for their safety.
- Be supportive and non-judgmental.
- Connect your child with a professional or support group that assist them through this difficult time.
- Assure your child that you are there to help keep them safe and develop a safety plan.
- Understand that ultimately your child must be the one that decides to leave the relationship. Forbidding them to see their abuser could potentially drive them away from you.
- If your teen denies the abuse, continue monitoring the situation closely while providing as much support as possible.
As Oakland County’s center for prevention and treatment of domestic abuse and sexual assault, HAVEN offers many programs including, individual and group counseling for survivors and a 24-hour crisis and support telephone line. Trained prevention specialists are also available to present The Skills for Violence-Free Relationships school program that concentrates on raising middle school and high school students’ awareness of sexual assault, dating violence, and sexual harassment.
Encourage your teen to help take a stand against teen dating violence. HAVEN’s Teen Advisory Council is an opportunity for teens aged 13–17 to receive training on domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault. The group typically meets twice a month and also works on projects related to the youth clients at HAVEN.
If you are seeking immediate assistance for your teen or support in approaching the subject with your teen contact HAVEN’s 24-hour Crisis and Support line at (877) 922-1274. To schedule a school presentation or to attend a Teen Advisory Council meeting, contact Cristy Cardinal at Prevention@haven-oakland.org.