The New York Times ran a chilling article the other day about abusive relationships among youths, which are far more prevalent than I realized. According to a 2007 Center of Disease Control and Prevention survey of 15,000 teens cited in the Times article, 10 percent of respondents reported physical abuse “like being hit or slapped by a romantic partner. Nearly 8 percent of teenagers in the survey said they were forced to have sexual intercourse.”
Statistics such as these, and in extreme cases murders in which a jealous ex is implicated, have spurred several states to adopt legislation requiring schools to present dating abuse prevention programs to students.
The Times article blames unmoderated technology for worsening the problem:
Experts say the abuse appears to be increasing as more harassment, name-calling and ridicule takes place among teenagers on the Internet and by cellphone.
“We are identifying teen dating abuse and violence more than ever,” said Dr. Elizabeth Miller, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the School of Medicine at the University of California, Davis, who began doing research on abuse in teenage dating relationships nearly a decade ago.
Dr. Miller cited a survey last year of children ages 11 to 14 by Liz Claiborne Inc., a clothing retailer that finances teenage dating research, in which a quarter of the 1,000 respondents said they had been called names, harassed or ridiculed by their romantic partner by phone call or text message, often between midnight and 5 a.m., when their parents are sleeping.
Young men and women who are just entering the dating world might also mistake their significant other’s controlling behavior for love and commitment; Dr. Miller points out later in the article that “few adolescents understand what a healthy relationship looks like.”
If you’re worried about your child or a friend, or if you’re concerned your own relationship might be abusive, I encourage you to begin the process of extricating your loved one or yourself from the situation as soon as possible. The following resources are a good starting point. For your safety, please be sure to access them on a public or secure computer, where the abuser cannot find out you viewed them.
1. A Psych Central Self Quiz: Am I in an Abusive Relationship?
2. Ask the Therapist: Advice from Psych Central on Getting Out of an Abusive Relationship
3. The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: loveisrespect.org
4. Heather’s Voice, a resource site in memory of Heather Norris, who was murdered by her abusive boyfriend: heathersvoice.net
5. Teens Experiencing Abusive Relationships (T.E.A.R.) has a list of warning signs; another about helping yourself, your child, or your friend; and much more: teensagainstabuse.org