Teen dating violence or relationship abuse is the use of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal force by one dating partner towards another dating partner. Abuse can cause injury and even death but it doesn't have to be physical. It can take many different forms including:
- constant text messaging or instant messaging,
- insults, isolation from family and friends,
- sexual abuse,
- name-calling, or
- emotional abuse and controlling a partner's behavior and appearance.
It can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter what their race, religion, sexual orientation, level of education or economic background.
What to do if you think your friend is in an abusive relationship
Most of the time, violence takes place when the couple is alone. You might not see dramatic warning signs like black eyes and broken bones. So, how can you tell for sure? For one thing, listen to your instincts. You probably wouldn’t be worried without good reason.
Here are some warning signs to look for that might mean your friend is in trouble and needs your help:
- Their boyfriend/girlfriend calls them names or puts them down in front of others.
- Their boyfriend/girlfriend acts extremely jealous when they talk to friends of the opposite sex, even when it is completely innocent.
- Your friend often cancels plans at the last minute, for reasons that sound untrue.
- Your friend frequently apologizes for their boyfriend/girlfriend.
- You friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend is constantly checking up on them, calling or texting, and demanding to know where they have been.
- You’ve seen the boyfriend/girlfriend lose their temper, maybe even get violent when they’re mad.
- Your friend is always worried about upsetting their boyfriend/girlfriend.
- Your friend is giving up things that used to be important to them, such as spending time with friends or other activities, and is becoming more and more isolated.
- Your friend’s weight, appearance or grades have changed dramatically.
- Your friend has injuries they can’t explain, or the explanations they give don’t add up.
How can I help?
Talking with a friend in an abusive relationship can make a big difference to them - whether they are being abused or being abusive. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know what to say or how to say it, especially if you’ve never dealt with this issue before.
- Listen first to what they have to say.
- Talk to them in private and keep what they say confidential.
- Let your friend know why you are concerned. Be specific. Refer to incidents you have personally witnessed instead of what you have heard from others.
- Offer to get your friend information.
- Mention other people your friend might talk to - a counselor, a teacher, or another adult they trust.
- Let them know you are available to talk more if they need.
- Give them the telephone number to the Harmony House Crisis Line– 706.885.1525 and our website address. Give them information to talk to a teen dating abuse hotline or refer them to a helpful Web site
- Be judgmental.
- Make them feel stupid or ashamed.
- Ask lots of yes or no questions. Give your friend a chance to talk freely.
- Force your friend to make a decision or give ultimatums. They have to decide when they are ready to get help or end their relationship. You can’t do it for them.
Even though an abuser may have an excuse for his or her abusive behavior, ABUSE IS INEXCUSABLE.
If you are interested in having a Harmony House representative come to your school or youth group to talk about dating violence, please call 706.885.1526.
This information was compiled from The National Teen Dating Abuse website (http://www.loveisrespect.org/) and Liz Claiborne Inc.
For more information on teen dating violence, go to: