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News > Teen dating violence -- It’s more common that we think
Teen dating violence -- It’s more common that we think

Posted 2/10/2012   Updated 2/10/2012 Email story   Print story


by Julie Couture
Family Advocacy Outreach Manager

2/10/2012 - JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. -- Adolescence is a time where many youth are trying to figure out who they are and what they want from life. Instead of automatically accepting the beliefs and values of their parents, they look to other sources, such as friends, to figure out what they value. One area that this rings true is in their relationships.

Many teens place a high value on being in a relationship. It is a status symbol of sorts, and signifies to the world--and to them--that they are worthy of someone's love and affection. Unfortunately, some may have a romantic view of relationships, where jealousy, controlling and inappropriate behaviors are considered acceptable and normal.

Some teens think that it is fine to receive numerous text messages from their boyfriends or girlfriends who want to know their whereabouts at all times. In fact, they think it signifies that they are loved and that someone is always thinking of them. Others are flattered when their special someone wants to spend as much time as possible in their presence. For some, this can lay the foundation for being in abusive relationships as it can lead to isolation from a solid support system.

Because adolescence is a time when teens gradually pull away from their parents, it may not be easy to see if they are involved in abusive or hurtful relationships. Both boys and girls can be abused -- and be abusive. There are signs that parents can watch for if they suspect their adolescent is being abused. For example, they may wear more conservative clothing, or clothing that is inappropriate for the weather, such as long sleeved shirts on a hot day. Girls may change the way they wear make-up to accommodate the wishes of their boyfriends. Teens may become isolated from their friends and stop participating in activities that they previously enjoyed. Other changes, whether in school performance or physical appearance (weight loss or gain) can also signal an abusive relationship.

In addition to noticing physical changes, it can help to pay attention to what teens say about their relationship. For example, if a young male talks about being constantly criticized, feeling uneasy because his girlfriend has a temper, or being hit or punched, chances are he is in an unhealthy relationship. Instead of giving your opinion of what he should do - no matter how right you are - the best thing to do is to listen. Ask him what he thinks he should do and if he believes the relationship is healthy. Keep in mind that it can take some time before your teen takes action, and he may have an on-again, off-again relationship with her before completely ending it. Professional counseling can help your child not only understand the dynamics of unhealthy and abusive relationships, but also provide additional support.

If you suspect your child is being abusive to his or her partner, there are things you can do. Talk to your teens about the behaviors that concern you, and express how it makes you feel. Let them know you care and are there to be supportive. Encourage them to seek help for what they are doing. Often, someone who is being abusive may justify their actions. Gently remind them that they are ultimately responsible for what they do.

Teaching teens about appropriate relationships now can prevent them from being in abusive relationships as adults. By gradually educating them and modeling healthy relationships, we may hopefully be able to end intimate partner violence.

For more information, contact Family Advocacy at 764-2427 at Langley, or 878-0807 at Fort Eustis. Additional information and services can be obtained from Transitions Family Violence Services at 722-2261.

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