Tyler is a sophomore and a first year Journalism student. He likes to travel, play video games, and swim. He aspires to go to the University of Virginia...
That’s Not Love – Teen Dating Abuse Awareness
April 24, 2019
One issue many teens aren’t aware of is teen dating abuse. This February, the month dedicated to this cause, the Student Government Association attended an informational presentation regarding signs and aspects of teen abusive relationships.
The organization that gave the presentation is called Shelter for Help in Emergency. They presented the qualities of healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships, different types of abuse that can occur, a cycle of abuse and violence control wheel, and notes for helping a friend get out of an abusive relationship.
The first point made is that relationships exist on a spectrum ranging from healthy to abusive, with unhealthy standing as a middle ground. Signs of a healthy relationship include good communication, respectful behavior, a trusting attitude, honesty, having equal say in decisions, and the ability to spend time apart. Signs of an unhealthy relationship include bad communication, disrespectful behavior, an untrusting attitude, lack of honesty, controlling behavior, and a lack of permission to spend time apart. Signs of an abusive relationship include unhealthy communication (hurtful, threatening, or insulting); showing signs of disrespect of feelings, thoughts, or opinions; physical abuse of the other partner; making excuses for poor behavior and blaming the other partner; isolating and controlling a partner through what they can say, do, or go; and pressuring or forcing a partner to do things they don’t want to.
According to The Shelter for Help in Emergency, different types of abuse include physical, verbal/emotional, sexual, digital, stalking, economic/financial, and spiritual like the following:
- Physical abuse that entails physically hurting the other partner through punching, hitting, slapping, pushing, kicking, and, in more extreme cases, homicide. Signs of physical abuse may sometimes be unrecognizable.
- Verbal/emotional abuse involving isolation from friends or family, controlling a partner’s actions (such as who they see or what they do), giving a partner the silent treatment, constant check-ins on their lives, or breaking down a partner’s self-esteem and dignity.
- Sexual abuse meaning to force a partner to engage in a sexual act when they do not want to or cannot give consent. This can be physical or non-physical, meaning this can also entail threatening to break up or spread rumors if a partner refuses sex.
- Digital abuse, meaning using technology to monitor another person’s location or try to control them. This also involves cyberbullying, demanding sexually-explicit pictures, or threatening to spread rumors or pictures.
- Stalking is where a partner watches, follows, and harasses the other partner repeatedly. Stalking often results in the victim feeling unsafe or afraid. Examples of stalking are excessive calling, texting, unexpectedly showing up to the partner’s work, classes, or home, leaving unwanted items/gifts and tracking you through social media.
- Economic/financial abuse means to control someone’s finances. After a while, this can lead to codependency and make it seem impossible to leave the relationship.
- Spiritual abuse is using someone’s religion or spirituality as a justification for abusive actions.
Along the progression of an abusive relationship, there exists a cycle centering around denial from the victim. The stages go from tension in the beginning, involving yelling, verbal abuse, and threats. This may lead to an acute explosion involving physical attacks, last comes a stage of regression where the abuser tries to apologize or blame abusive behavior on the victim. The victim often starts the cycle again, hopeful that it will be better this time.
Along with the cycle of abuse, experts have identified a violence and control wheel revolving around methods of control in a relationship. Methods include peer pressure; anger/emotional abuse; using social status; intimidation; minimizing/denying/blaming; threats; sexual coercion; and isolation/exertion. Here are some examples:
- Peer pressure involves threatening to expose someone’s weakness, spread rumors, or tell malicious lies to others.
- Anger/emotional abuse can include putting a partner down, making the partner feel badly about themselves, name calling, making the partner think they are crazy, playing mind games, humiliating the partner, or making the partner feel guilty.
- Using social status to get to someone means to treat someone like a servant, making all decisions in a relationship, acting like the “Master of the Castle,” or being the one that defines gender roles.
- Intimidation involves making someone afraid through looks, actions, and gestures, destroying property, abusing pets, or displaying weapons.
- Minimizing, denying, or blaming means to make light of abuse, say the abuse didn’t happen, shift responsibility for abusive actions, or saying the other partner caused it.
- Using threats could mean, threatening to leave, commit suicide, or report the other partner to the police, making the partner drop charges, and making the partner do illegal things.
- Sexual coercion involves manipulating or making threats to get sex, getting the partner pregnant, threatening to take children away, or getting the partner drunk or drugged to get sex.
- Isolation/exclusion includes controlling what the other person does, sees, reads, or where they go, limiting outside involvement, and using jealousy to justify actions.
What can be done if your friend is stuck in an abusive relationship? The Shelter for Help in Emergency organization provides possible actions to help someone trapped in an abusive relationship. Options are to listen to what they have to say and offer to get help, mention other people that they could go to (a counselor, therapist, or a trusted adult), remind them that the abuse is not their fault, continue to check in on them, help them come up with a safety plan, be clear about what behaviors in the relationship are concerning you, and to keep it confidential unless the person is in danger.
For more information on teen dating abuse, go to https://www.loveisrespect.org/.