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First Love

Nothing is quite as exciting as a first love. It’s the stuff of Romeo and Juliet – passion that sweeps you off your feet. What could be wrong with that? Usually -nothing. But sometimes what can seem like intense love and devotion at first can really be signs of jealousy, possessiveness, and control – characteristics that can be early red flags for relationship abuse.

Kathy’s partner sends her texts at least 30 times a day asking where she is (even when she is at school) and who she’s with. In the beginning, she was flattered that her partner cared so much. Now, Kathy is worried because her partner says she can only talk with certain people.

Teen dating violence is an increasing phenomenon throughout the nation and is considered intimate partner violence (IPV) just like domestic violence. IPV is a serious public health problem worldwide which is being identified globally as starting in adolescent dating. Young adults have the highest risk of IPV with the level increasing over time. It occurs between two people who are in a dating relationship and can be violent physically, emotionally, and/or sexually.

Kathy experienced some of the early warning signs that her partner may be or eventually become abusive. Additional signs to look for are:

  • extreme jealousy or accusations of cheating
  • acts controlling or possessiveness
  • pressure to have sex
  • tells the other how to dress
  • explosive anger
  • isolating or from friends
  • blaming others for their own behavior
  • verbal abuse, put downs, or name calling
  • threats of violence to partner or self if they leave
  • doesn’t want to go to school (which is out of character)

Teenagers like Kathy can learn to identify the early warning signs of an abusive relationship and understand that they have a choice to live a life free of interpersonal violence. Adolescents who do not recognize these red flags before they begin to date may have trouble forming healthy, nonviolent relationships with others.

Dating violence can have a negative effect on health throughout life. Teens who are victims are more likely to do poorly in school; engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use; experience sleeping and eating disorders and depression. Some teens even think about or attempt suicide. Victims may also carry the patterns of violence into future relationships. Physically abused teens are three times more likely than their non-abused peers to experience violence during college and throughout their lives.

About one in three high school students have been or will be involved in an abusive relationship while 40% of teenagers, ages 14 to 17, say they know someone their age that has been hit or beaten by a partner. Teens do not see the negative consequences of these incidences in their friends’ lives. This acceptance of dating violence among friends is one of the strongest links to being involved in future dating violence. Many parents are completely unaware of these facts, for teens often use their peers for support.

In this case, Kathy asked one of her best friends for advice. Her friend had attended a class at the High School on Healthy Relationships by CNVC and knew what to do. She gave Kathy options; talk to your parents, a school counselor or a peer counselor at CNVC. She even provided her with websites designed to help teens http://www.justdatenow.org and http://www.loveisnotabuse.com.

Many incidences of dating violence can be prevented. Adolescence is a “window of opportunity;” a time for teens to prepare for future relationships. Teens need adult support in acquiring healthy relationship skills for their future like respect, good communication, and honesty. If you suspect that a teen is being abused in any way, talk to him or her privately and be honest with your concerns. Tell the person that you’re there, whenever he or she feels ready to talk. Reassure the person and let him or her know that you’ll help in any way you can. By picking up on the warning signs and offering support, you can help a teen escape an abusive situation and begin healing.

After getting some suggestions about how to handle her situation, Kathy decided to approach her boyfriend and set boundaries in their relationship. Ideally, this is where communication skills can aid in building a foundation for future relationships whether they are with intimate partners, friends, relatives or co-workers.

Scared of your partner's ANGER?

Walking on eggshells? Hiding your bruises? Frightened for your kids? Trapped with no safe place to go?

Have you been RAPED?

Are you keeping it a shameful secret? Do you think no one will believe you? Do you believe it is your fault?

Were you MOLESTED as a child?

Does it still haunt you? Wondering if you will ever get over it?

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