Teen relationships are often passionate and exciting, with many teens believing that they have fallen in love. While most relationships are healthy, some end up being abusive. Victims of dating violence end up suffering and having to cope with the long-term effects of abuse. In fact, one in three teens will be a victim of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a dating partner. And nearly 1.5 million U.S. high school students will experience physical abuse this year. To help bring awareness to this issue and identify warning signs for parents and teens, advocates designated February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. The goal of this is to bring awareness to parents and teens alike about the warning signs to watch for in teen dating relationships.
Teen dating violence is considered the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence that goes on within a dating relationship. Many abusers use more than one type of abuse on their victim. Often, the abuse starts subtly enough, with verbal and physical abuse being mistaken for playful teasing. Slowly, the situation escalates as the abuser tries to gain more control over their victim. Many teens do not even realize that they are in an abusive relationship and may blame themselves for the way they are treated. Red flags to look for include the following:
- Isolation from family and friends. It is natural for those in relationships to want to spend more and more time together. However, if a partner pressures you into spending time together to the exclusion of family and friends and then acts jealous and angry when you spend time with others, then your partner may be abusive.
- Controlling behaviors. Abusive behaviors are rooted in power and control. While these behaviors may initially seem charming, they eventually become more and more restrictive, such as telling you what you can wear, who you can go out with, and to whom you can talk.
- This typically presents itself in the form of verbal abuse in which the partner purposefully belittles and humiliates you in front of others or criticizes your opinions. The goal of criticism is to make you feel afraid and powerless, giving them power and control over you.
- If your partner makes threats to withhold love or affection if you don’t do what they want you to do, then this is a form of emotional abuse. Healthy relationships don’t use fear and intimidation.
It is important to note that if you or someone you care about is in an abusive relationship, please report it to a responsible adult right away. Victims of abuse are likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. Left untreated, these symptoms are likely to persist and lead the victim to expect abuse in future relationships due to low self-esteem, poor boundaries, and few supports. In more severe cases, the victims may die at the hands of the abuser.
Counseling should be considered if anyone has been a victim of an abusive relationship. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven effective in treating those with depression and anxiety, both common results of being in an abusive relationship. CBT helps address your emotions and thoughts, as well as get to the underlying reason of why you feel the way that you do.
While the abuse may be hard for you to talk about at first, therapy can help you to recognize the patterns of an abusive relationship and how to cope with the emotional scars that have been left behind. You don’t have to be a victim anymore, you just have to take the first step. Counselors at Hidden Stream Counseling are here to help.