Teen dating shouldn’t be hazardous to your teen’s health

“Ouch!” Terri was shocked that her boyfriend slapped her and left a red mark on her forearm.

“Ah, that’s just a love tap,” he said.

“Well, it hurt,” she snapped. “Don’t do it again!” She closed her locker and turned toward her next class.

After school, Leo drove her home from school. He wasn’t talking much. He almost seemed angry, but Terri couldn’t think of anything she might have done to provoke him. He looked around before he turned his eyes on her. “I saw you talking to Art.”

“So what? He’s just a friend.”

“You should stay away from him.”

Terri didn’t like the look in Leo’s eyes. She didn’t want to argue with him. “I have homework to do,” she murmured, and started to get out of the car. Leo grabbed her wrist and squeezed uncomfortably tight. She looked down where he gripped her and saw her arm getting red, his fingers white.

“Stay away from him. You belong to me now.”

She pulled away from his grasp. “Wrong, Leo. I belong to me. And don’t touch me again. You need help.”

His face reddened. She hurried from the car and toward the house, her door key in her hand. She didn’t look back until he squealed tires when he took off down the street. For a moment she was afraid, but she shrugged it away. Everyone has bad moments, she thought. She must be over-reacting. But once she was inside she locked the door again, in case Leo decided to come back. She was afraid to tell anyone what had happened. She didn’t want her parents not to like her boyfriend. She didn’t want everyone to think she was crazy. Maybe she should wait and see what happened the next time she talked to Leo.

Dating violence is a problem among teens. Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to control a boyfriend or girlfriend. The abuser uses manipulation to control the person and to gain power over them. They make a person feel bad about self, family or friends. And they make their victims afraid. Abuse may be emotional, physical, sexual or verbal. And one in four teens report such abuse annually.

Unchecked, teen dating violence leads to poor health and well being causing anxiety, depression, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behaviors, pregnancy, substance abuse and re-victimization, to name a few. The first episode of such victimization is around age 15. Women age 16-24 experience the highest rates of dating abuse.

School districts are encouraged to address dating violence by adding a curriculum on dating abuse and to add classroom activities that educate students about what a healthy relationship should be like. Staff should be trained to recognize the signs of dating abuse. Often, the adults on staff at school are the only adults that students talk to regularly. And published reports say that about 43 percent of teens who experience dating abuse are experiencing it on school property or in the school building. Additionally, dating abuse can affect student health, academic success and school safety.

Parents need to be educated about this problem as well. Their teens need to feel safe and comfortable enough to tell Mom and/or Dad what’s happening. Abusers will tell their victims such things as, “If you tell anyone, the brakes on your mom’s car will fail on her way home from work and she will die.” As graphic as that may sound, that is one of the realities of abuse.

For more information about teen dating violence, contact Family Recovery Center at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. For more information on the prevention of family violence, please check the website of the Tri-County Family Violence Prevention Coalition at www.FVIP.org. FRC promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues.