Imagine being abused by your loved ones in adulthood. Now, realize that this begins at a much earlier age than it makes headlines.
It’s estimated that 1 in 3 teens are either emotionally or physically abused before they graduate high school. A victim, who we’ll call “Kelsey”, has faced the issue head one for three years, since she was just 14 years old.
“If I would say no or tell him to not say that or say he shouldn’t do something, then I would get hit or he would get his friends to talk about me,” she said.
She’s just one of millions of teenagers that are abused by their significant other each year. However, it’s something teens aren’t very open about. Even counselors can have trouble identifying teens who are suffering through an abusive relationship.
Angelica McCloskey is the clinical supervisor for the Children’s Service Center in Wilkes-Barre’s partial hospitalization program. She works with victimized students on a daily basis.
“A lot of them are withdrawn and might not want to talk about it, so it takes a little bit to understand what the change is,” she said.
“Kelsey” tells us, the abuse she got from her boyfriend infringed on every part of her life.
“If I would say no or tell him to not say that or say he shouldn’t do something, then I would get hit, or he would get his friends to talk about me.”
Many teens deal with the issue themselves. “Kelsey” was no different because she says she couldn’t trust any of the adults in her life.
“You go through this turmoil inside of you and around you, so how do you know to trust the teacher, how do you know to trust an adult if your whole life has been failure,” she said.
It’s not the end of the line though. There are many places victims, and parents of victims can go for help. The director of crisis and residential services at the Children’s Service Center, Summer Krochta, said parents are key for their kid’s health.
“Educating your kids that jealousy doesn’t equal love, and that there is a way to have healthy, appropriate relationships,” Krochta said.
But it’s not just girls. A recent government survey found nearly 30 percent of teen boys experience some form of dating abuse.
“Sometimes kids that are going through a difficult time, they really internalize it and they do shut down and they will isolate,” Krochta said.
If you don’t see the problem, that’s not really a surprise. It’s on social media and behind the backs of adults. The abuse is more than just physical too.
“Most of the dating violence we hear about isn’t physical. It’s more emotional or mental,” McCloskey said.
So what do you do if you believe your teen is facing an abusive relationship? The experts suggest paying attention to every aspect of your child’s life. Anything from their group of friends to the way they’re behaving at home. The warning signs of an abusive relationship run deep. They can include the following:
1) Humiliating or embarrassing you
2) Constant put-downs
4) Refusing to communicate
5) Ignoring or excluding you
6) Provocative behavior with the opposite sex
7) Use of sarcasm and unpleasant tone of voice
9) Unreasonable jealousy
10) Extreme moodiness
11) Constantly making fun of you
12) Saying statements like “If you don’t ___, I will___”
13) Guilt Trips
14) Making everything your fault
While the violence can happen many places online, there are also places online to go for help.
If you’re looking to learn more about teen dating violence the experts we spoke with recommend some of the following websites.
The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence gives a resource for anyone to search information on talking to someone who is experiencing an abusive relationship.
Love is Respect is an online counseling service. The website has counselors ready to talk to anyone, victims or not about what happens during an abusive relationship. The site also has running commentary from the same counselors on how to tell if someone you know is experiencing a bad relationship.
Is an online resource that encourages people to talk about the issue of violent relationships. It also looks into the signs of unhealthy relationships and how they can be overcome.