Dating the Dangerous Boy (Teen Dating Violence)
You’ve overheard parts of your daughter’s end of phone conversations with her boyfriend lately, and it sounds like they’ve been fighting. Today, you notice that she has a circle of bruises on her upper arm.
Could your daughter be a victim of dating violence? According to the statistics, she definitely could be.
About Teen Dating Violence
Teen dating violence is more common than you may think. It has been estimated that as many as one in eight high school students is involved in a relationship in which physical, sexual, or emotional abuse occurs:
- Physical abuse may involve being hit, kicked, or shoved.
- Sexual abuse takes the form of being forced to have sex or being touched against one’s will.
- Emotional abuse can include name-calling, harassing or controlling behaviors, or threats of harm.
Perpetrators of dating violence may appear normal and non-aggressive in most situations. Many of them have experienced abuse or maltreatment as a child, or have witnessed abuse between their parents. They may be involved in using drugs or alcohol. Most of them don’t mean to hurt another person, but may lack conflict resolution skills.
Abusers are often sorry for their actions, and promise not to do it again. But the abuse occurs again, and again, and again – and won’t stop until the perpetrator is arrested or receives professional help.
If You Suspect Violence, Act immediately
If you suspect that your child is involved in an abusive relationship, speak up immediately. Dating violence can lead to serious physical and emotional harm – up to and including the death of the victim. Your action (or inaction) may make all the difference in the world:
- Many girls who are involved in an abusive situation lack the dating experience necessary to understand what does and does not constitute acceptable behavior.
- Your daughter may mistakenly feel that her boyfriend’s overly jealous and controlling behavior is a normal response because he “loves her so much.”
- She may also lack self-esteem, and could believe that the negative things he says about her are true.
- Even if she knows that the relationship is not healthy, she may not know how to extract herself from it, especially if her boyfriend threatens her with harm (or threatens to hurt himself) if she breaks up with him.
How To Help Your Daughter
Have a talk with your teen to determine if your suspicions are correct. Tell her what you’ve observed, such as unexplained bruises, an attitude of fear concerning her boyfriend, continued apologies for his behavior, her lack of interest in people and things that she once enjoyed, and her decision to spend all of her time exclusively with her boyfriend.
Talk about the warning signs of abusive relationships, and let her know that things do not generally get better for perpetrators without intervention. If anything dating violence is apt to escalate, not subside. Compile a list of domestic violence resources, and if your daughter refuses to use them, make the calls yourself.
If your daughter wants to break up the relationship and she feels that she needs protection in order to do so, seek legal counsel.
It’s important to talk to the boy and his parents, too, about the situation. Make it clear that violence is not an acceptable way to solve conflicts, and encourage him to get help.