Leah and Tim laughed a lot when they were together. He looked out for the welfare of his mother and grandmother. He had started going to church, too, because she went. These all were good signsLeah thought. She went to see him, to spend time with his family. She got ready to go home. He hit her leg.
"That hurt!" she said.
"It wasn't meant to feel good," Tim replied.
Something told her not to say anything more, just get in her car and leave.
"Mom, I'm breaking up with Tim," she said when she got home.
"Don't see him alone," Mom advised out of concern, "and keep your eyes open to make sure he doesn't begin to stalk you."
"Don't worry, Mom. I'll be fine," Leah said.
The U.S. Department of Justice defines dating violence as violence committed by a person who is or has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim. Statistics also bear out that a large percentage of women who have been murdered were killed by former or current boyfriends or spouses.
Dating violence happens everywhere and can happen to anyone, advises the Tri-County Family Violence Prevention Coalition which serves Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Approximately one-fifth of high school girls reported in one study they had been physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. One of five college students reported at least one incidence of abuse in dating relationships from slapping and hitting to life-threatening violence. More than half of college students across the country know someone affected by domestic violence. Drug or alcohol use is involved in dating violence a reported 60 percent of the time. In many cases, the violence doesn't happen until a couple becomes seriously involved.
Statistics indicate that while female abusers may hit their partners, male abusers are more likely to injure their victims. Victims and abusers both tend to have low self-esteem. The only risk factor they share is exposure to violence between parents.
Symptoms of victims of such unhealthy relationships are bruises, changes in behavior, increased isolation, changes in attending activities like school and other organizations, difficulty making decisions, appearance of being "down," appearance of being "afraid" of partner, and asking you not to mention certain things to the partner.
The coalition urges you to be informed about family violence. If you think someone close to you is an abuser, let him or her know this is an unhealthy behavior and that it is wrong. Encourage that person to get professional help because it won't just go away. The cycle of abuse must be broken. The cycle continues to accelerate and worsen over time. Violence is about control, not provocation. Find local resources that can help you, your friend, your family to get the help they need.
In Columbiana County, call Christina House Shelter at 330-420-0036; Mahoning County, Sojourner House Shelter, 330-747-4040; and in Trumbull county, Someplace Safe Shelter, 330-393-1565.
Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities and is a partner of the Tri-County Family Violence Prevention Coalition. The agency offers education, prevention and treatment programs related to substance abuse and coexisting health conditions. For more information, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.