Dating Violence Awareness and Information
Dating Abuse and Hidden Abuse
By: Ali Rose Wirthlin and AVA
With all the dating that happens with teenagers and everyone else nowadays, it’s important to discuss abuse in romantic relationships and how it can be hidden. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. It can also be committed by either a male or female. Roughly 1.5 million high school boys and girls in the U.S. admit to being intentionally hit or physically harmed in the last year by someone they are romantically involved with. A lot of abusive relationships, especially teen relationships, can start small. The signs of a beginning abuser can simply be taken as the signs of a new, young relationship. Signs such as spending less and less time with friends and family to spend time with their significant other, dressing differently, being very defensive about their relationship, etc.
Dating violence is not rare. 1 in 3 young people will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. 33% of adolescents in America are victim to sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional dating abuse. Furthermore, In the U.S., 25% of high school girls have been abused physically or sexually. Teen girls who are abused this way are 6 times more likely to become pregnant or contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Statements such as “if you love me, you will…” or “if you leave me I’ll hurt myself/you” are especially big warning signs that someone’s partner is manipulating them. Excuses to skip school events, family events, etc. that don’t make any sense, unexplained bruises, excessive guilt or shame, etc. A lot of younger people (and older people) don’t consider abusive relationships to be a possibility for high school relationships, which is why it’s so important to be on the lookout for these signs because a lot of times, victims of abuse will not come forward until they are offered help and support. Belittling is another common sign of an abusive relationship, if you find that someone’s partner is going beyond harmless teasing and belittling them, try and talk to the victim privately and see if there is any other abuse being committed. Constant texting, checking the others phone, insisting you spend all your time with them, isolating you from friends, extracurricular activities, family, events, etc. are also signs.
When a person is being abused, friends and family often recognize the warning signs or red flags of abuse. Some signs to look for, provided by Break the Cycle, include:
Unexplained or sudden illness
Changes in physical appearance
Starting to wear more makeup or stopping wearing makeup all together
Wearing baggier clothes in public
Changes in eating habits
Depression and/or mood/overall personality changes
Seeming passive or withdrawn
Frequent self-blame or depreciation
Self-harming behaviors such as cutting, hair pulling, etc.
Using drugs or alcohol in excess
Signs Attached to the Abuser:
Constant check-ins/texts and photos to prove where they are
Excessively texting or calling their partner
Makes excuses for their partner’s behavior
High-risk sexual behavior
Signs Attached to Peers:
Isolation/loss of friendships
Isolation from family
Changes in mood and overall personality
Becomes a bully or begins to be bullied
Concern that everyone can tell abuse is occurring
Signs Apparent in Class:
Often late to class or does not attend class
Passive or compliant/withdrawn
Newly failing grades
Inability to concentrate
Expression of gendered belief system
Worried abuser may track them down because of class attendance
There is nothing worse than watching a friend be abused by her boyfriend or girlfriend and not know what to do. Not only is abuse an extremely difficult subject to discuss with a friend, but teens need to realize that remaining silent when someone they care about is being hurt is not very loving. It is a very personal topic and may be uncomfortable to bring up, but it needs to be done in every household. Otherwise, early red flags may go unnoticed until it is too late, and someone is hurt: mentally, physically, and/or emotionally. Teens who suffer dating abuse are subject to long-term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, promiscuity, thoughts of suicide, and violent behavior. 50% of young people who experience rape, or physical or sexual abuse will attempt to commit suicide, according to the No More project.
Talk to your teen or, if you’re a teen, about healthy relationships. Learn how to set boundaries and expect respect. Most teens view dating and relationships through a romantic lens. In the beginning, they are thrilled, happy, and filled with hope. Be supportive of these expectations but prepare them too for the ordinary ups and downs that occur in relationships. Make sure they know that while disagreements are normal, handling them in an abusive or disrespectful way is not normal. Equally, violence, abuse, name-calling, and sexual bullying are not normal. It also is not healthy for a partner to pressure the other person to engage in sexting. Be sure to prepare them with suggestions on how to get out of bad situations. For example, they can say: "I am not comfortable with this."
“A person who is being abused needs someone to hear and believe him or her. Maybe your friend is afraid to tell a parent because that will bring pressure to end the relationship. People who are abused often feel like it's their fault — that they "asked for it" or that they don't deserve any better. But abuse is never deserved. Help your friend understand that it is not his or her fault. Your friend does not deserve to be mistreated. The person who is being abusive has a serious problem and needs professional help.
A friend who is being abused needs you to listen and support without judging. It takes courage to admit being abused. Your friend also needs your encouragement to get help immediately from an adult, such as a parent, family member, or health professional.” says D'Arcy Lyness, PhD.
I suggest always checking in on your friends, even if you doubt they are in an abusive situation. Don’t be complicit if you suspect someone is in a dangerous relationship. Speak up. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Dating abuse is far too common and is not discussed enough. Remember that there is help available and abuse is never the victim’s fault.
If you or a loved one need help contact any of these resources:
Advocates for Victims of Abuse:
1038 Grass Valley Road, Suite G
Winnemucca, NV 89445
775-623-2328 or call/text 702-343-2943
Loveisrespect: Call 1-866-331-9474, chat at loveisrespect.org or text “loveis” to 22522, any time, 24/7/365.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 800‐799‐SAFE (7233) 800‐787‐3224 TTY