Dating violence: 1 in 10 report being victims

Molina Soun, Staff Writer

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the compassionate and affectionate love between two individuals.  Despite this, one in three adolescents in the United States experience some form of dating abuse, according to loveisrespect, a national teen dating abuse helpline.

In 2010, Congress declared the month of February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month to put an end to dating abuse.  The highest number of dating violence is against females between the ages of 16 and 24.  Of those affected, only one third report their abuse to someone.

“I never told anyone,” freshman Allie Rezania, who was not able to leave her abusive relationship for a long time, said.  “I finally got out of my relationship because my sister helped me.  She’s a strong person.  She threatened him.  I stayed inside a lot because I was too scared to go out.”

“In a 12 month period, one in 10 high school students nationwide reported they were physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend, and still more experienced verbal or emotional abuse like shaming, bullying, or threats,“ President Barack Obama said in a presidential proclamation about Teen Dating Violence Month.  “Depression, substance abuse, and health complications are among the long-term impacts that may follow in the wake of an abusive relationship.”

Types of abuse range from physical, verbal, emotional, sexual and digital due to increase of social media and technology.  A main reason dating abuse occurs is that the abuser wants to gain power and control over his victim.  A teen control and power wheel produced and distributed by the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence lists various types of dating violence teens experience: threats, sexual coercion, isolation, and peer pressure.

“He was stalking me in person and on social media and threatened me with blackmail,” a senior who asked to remain anonymous said.  “I just wanted him to leave me alone.”

“He always wanted to be with me, check my phone, and wear certain stuff,” Rezania recalled of her abusive situation.

Many teens do not know who to turn to when abuse begins because they are confused, shocked, or scared and may feel isolated from friends and family.

Fewer than 50 percent of parents have spoken to their child about dating abuse.  In a survey conducted by “Women’s Health,” 81 percent of parents do not believe teen dating violence is an issue or did not know whether it is an issue.  Neither Hoang’s nor Rezania’s parents had spoken to them about dating abuse.

One of the most dangerous times in an abusive relationship is when the victim attempts to end the relationship because the abuser becomes angry.

“He wasn’t abusive during the relationship,” the senior said.  “After the breakup is when the abuse started happening.”

Dating abuse often starts emotionally or psychologically and may escalate to physical or sexual abuse.

Leaving an abusive relationship is not easy and teens stay in their relationship for many reasons.  They might be too scared to leave the abusive relationship, believe they are in love and think they can change their abuser, or believe they’re at fault for the abuse.

“They’re emotionally attached or think no one else would ever love them,” senior Hieu Hoang said.  “They might feel insecure about themselves.”

One way to prevent dating abuse before it happens is to get to know the person well enough before dating them.  Still, if the relationship worsens, it is important to get help before it becomes dangerous.

“There are signs that they’re gonna be abusive, such as jealousy,” Hoang said.  “Know the signs and stop the relationship before it gets too serious.  Tell your family, friends, or a women’s center to be protected from the abuser.”

“If you feel uncomfortable, confront them,” Rezania said.  “Tell an adult or the police if you can.”

After an abusive relationship ends, an abused teen may still suffer from the trauma of the ordeal.  Teens who experience dating abuse are more likely to struggle in school, develop depression and eating disorders, contemplate suicide, and turn to drugs and alcohol.

“Stuff he said still sticks to me,” the senior said. “It triggers bad memories.”

“They might be traumatized; it’s gonna take a long time to accept themselves,” Hoang said.  “They’re gonna feel like every guy is gonna hurt them or the victim can hurt themselves instead.”

Dating abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, race, or sexuality.