"When The Abuser Looks
Like an Angel"
Domestic violence does not discriminate. Violence occurs among males to females, females to females, males to males and parents to children. Domestic Violence does not just happen to woman (although statistics are predominately directed towards this.)
Violence does not only happen in White families, African American families or Asian families. Violence does not just happen in adult relationships, violence may occur in any relationship.
The teen dating years should be times of holding hands, love notes, stealing kisses and new romance. Instead, these innocent times can be times of terror. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, as many as 65 percent of American teens confront boyfriends or girlfriends who threaten, hit or sexually assault them. In recent years, public attention has been focused on women as victims of domestic violence.
Statistics have shown that usually it is the woman who is the victim, however, men are also victims. Research also shows that parents, ministers, friends and teachers of young teenagers (male and female) do not realize how frequently young romance turns violent. The facts about teenage dating violence are astounding. Consider these facts from the Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
One of every three high school students is or has been involved in an abusive dating relationship.
Dating violence includes physical, emotional, verbal and sexual abuse.
Jealousy is the leading cause of dating violence. Uncontrollable anger is the second leading cause.
About 26% if pregnant teens report being physically abused by their boyfriends. About half of them said the abuse began or intensified after he learned of the pregnancy.
40% of teen-age girls (ages 14-17) report knowing someone their age that has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend.
Public attention needs to be turned more to the issue of teenage violence. As a general, we are seeing more and more violent crimes committed by young people. Every year the names of victims killed as a result of domestic violence grows and every year, more teen-agers are on that list. What children see is what they learn as the normal. If they see mom being hit by dad (or partner) then they learn that this is how love is shown. So when their teenager's boyfriend hits them, they believe this is what they must endure.
The victims themselves may not realize they are in harmful situations. Even if they do realize they are in a dangerous situation, they may not know what to do about it. There needs to be more education and intervention. Six out of 10 dating relationships continue even after abuse has begun according to the Ohio Department of Human Services. According to the San Francisco District Attorney's Office: Between 60-80% of the adult male partners who physically and sexually exploit their teenage partners are 20 years old and OLDER.
The average age of the teenage victim is 15 years and younger. A fact sheet distributed by the Greater Bay Area Chapter of the March of Dimes states that teenage girls are more likely to have experienced battering in their year prior to pregnancy. Teenage girls are at higher risk than adult women for battering during pregnancy. There is a definite link between sexual and physical violence in adult-adolescent relationship. In a sample of pregnant teenagers, among those who had been sexually abused, 60% had also been hit by a partner.
A Few Reasons Why Teens Stay in Abusive Relationships:
- Peer pressure is a powerful force in youth today. Not only are teens pressured to commit crimes, but there is the pressure to be skinny, beautiful, drive a nice car, be rich, have the "in" clothes and the list goes on. Many teens feel that having a boyfriend or girlfriend is important to gain popularity or the acceptance of peers. When the relationship becomes abusive, the person hesitates to leave for fear of losing friends and humiliation.
- Abusers threaten to harm their partners. Abusers may also threaten to kill themselves if their partners leave them. This increases the stress on the teenage victim because they feel responsible for their partner. The abused partner becomes afraid to leave. It is hard to break up with the violent partner when they attend the same school or classes. Many times, the abuse doesn't end when the victim leaves.
Isolation - Abusers isolate their partners from friends, family and other sources of support. The more isolated the victim becomes the more dependent she becomes on the abuser.
- Battered teens will often stay in an abusive relationship because they are in love. The abusive partner will say things like, "I love you so much, please don't leave me. I promise to change." In their search to gain acceptance and love, the victim may continue in the relationship.
Another vital time in a relationship and when violence seems to occur the most is right before and during pregnancy. There are programs which have been instituted to serve abused, pregnant teenage girls. Pregnant teenagers are more likely to be victims of domestic and relationship violence than are any other groups of women.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233. They can provide confidential crisis intervention, counseling, and referrals to local resources. (You don't have to give your name or any identifying information.) You may also be able to talk to them about emergency strategies you can use if you decide to leave or find yourself in an emergency situation.
Let your healthcare provider know your situation, so you can get all the help and support you need.
Visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline's website for a list of questions to ask yourself about abuse, important safety planning tips, and numbers to call in each state for services.
Visit The Safety Zone, a site with a wealth of information on abuse and domestic violence resources.
Visit the U.S. government's Violence Against Women site.