Questions every parents and teen should be asking….”What Can I do to bring awareness to the growing epidemic of Teen Dating Violence?”
Many may or not be aware that today, February 1, 2011 kicks off the second year to recognize Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Every day should be recognized as personal safety awareness but this month we will streamline and focus on our young people.
Did you know that 1 in 3 teens in a serious relationship reports having been hit, slapped or pushed by a partner? Not only can abuse be physical but it can be sexual, verbal, emotional and stalking. And, it can even be digital abuse. To make matters worse, dating abuse has also been linked to other serious issues, like drug use, teen pregnancy and suicide.
What’s the bottom-line? Teens have the right to be educated about safe and healthy relationships, free from abuse. And, we are going to be shouting from the rooftops all month long and ask that you assist us.
We want to reach as many teens as humanly possible every single day. We need to get this information out to students, teachers, parents, administrators and anyone else that wants to get involved. We will raise awareness nationwide and direct youth to Project Safe Girls as well as other agencies and places that they can get help. We are asking for your help – we need as many voices to be heard.
Please invite your friends, family members, parents, associates and peers to join us as we extend our hand to our young people. Our young people must begin to learn extremely important “life skills” that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Who wouldn’t want this vital information and training for themselves, their daughter, sister, any family member or friend?
Take care and STAY SAFE!
Text Messages Become a Growing Weapon in Dating Violence, Part 3…
Last year, Maryland passed a bill to encourage — rather than require — school districts to teach the topic. It was less than what Bill and Michele Mitchell, who lost their 21-year-old daughter, Kristin, to dating violence, wanted. But it was a start, and the couple from Ellicott City will continue to push, they say.
Bill Mitchell says he hopes that more young people will begin to see warning signs where his family did not.
Just hours before she was killed in 2005, Kristin had texted her boyfriend: “You are being ridiculous. Why cant i do something with my friends.”
He later found and heard about other texts, including one that asked why she had gone to her class rather than spend time with her boyfriend. Kristin was in her senior year at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and graduated three weeks before her death.
Says Mitchell: “Text messaging, in the wrong hands, has to be about the worst thing that’s come along when we’re talking about dating violence and controlling personalities.”
In a recent survey, nearly one in four of those ages 14 to 24 reported that partners check in multiple times a day to see where they are or who they are with, and more than one in 10 said partners demanded passwords, according to a survey by the Associated Press and MTV.
One challenge is that many teens do not view excessive texting as a problem and may not recognize abusive behaviors. “If you’re getting 50 messages an hour and you want 50 messages an hour, that’s not a problem,” says Marjorie Gilberg, executive director of Break the Cycle, which works to end dating violence. “But if you’re getting 50 messages an hour and you don’t even want one, that’s very different.”
These sorts of topics are addressed through a teen help line called Love Is Respect and several national awareness campaigns, including MTV’s effort on digital abuse, A Thin Line, a joint effort on digital dating abuse called That’s Not Cool and the initiative Love Is Not Abuse.
In California, Jill Murray says her cases have included a 16-year-old whose ex-boyfriend paid four friends to help him text when he was asleep or at work. “It was like psychological torture.”
Murray urges parents to pay more attention to their children’s texting lives, checking to see how many messages they get, at what hour and from whom. “Parents don’t know this is going on whatsoever,” she says.
Text Messages Become a Growing Weapon in Dating Violence…Part 2
As a parent, Lynne Russell thinks the privacy of text messaging helped obscure the danger that her daughter, Siobhan “Shev” Russell, 19, faced. The teenager from Oak Hill, Va., was killed by her boyfriend in April 2009, 10 weeks after delivering a graduation speech at Mountain View Alternative High School.
Later, Lynne Russell and her husband found scores of texts, some disturbing, that Siobhan’s boyfriend, now 18, had sent. “I don’t think she recognized the warning signs, and we didn’t see the signs until it was too late,” says Russell, who plans to start a dating-violence awareness campaign in the fall.
A federal survey released this month showed one of 10 high school students nationally reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend during the previous year. In Maryland, which did a similar survey, one in six said they were hurt.
Although such surveys do not show a rise in violence, the texting culture has changed the experience.
In Rockville, a woman in her 20s was so closely tracked that her partner insisted that she text him photos to prove her whereabouts — each with a clock displaying the time, says Hannah Sassoon, coordinator of Montgomery County’s domestic violence response team.
Katalina Posada, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, says one of her friends is frequently texted by a jealous boyfriend. “It’s like the 20 questions a parent would ask,” she says, adding that she finally told her friend: “This isn’t right.”
Textual harassment is getting more attention as concerns about dating violence mount. In the past several years, about a dozen states have passed or are considering laws to bring dating violence education into schools.
The legislative push comes partly from parents such as Gary Cuccia, a Pennsylvania father whose daughter, Demi Brae, was killed a day after her 16th birthday in 2007. Cuccia says his daughter had broken up with her teenage boyfriend, whom the family thought of as likable, if a little jealous.
In the days before Demi’s death, Cuccia would later learn, her ex-boyfriend texted her again and again: “You know you can’t live without me,” he wrote. “U need to see me.” And: “I’m ballin my eyes.”
When Demi finally agreed to see the boy, he came over when she was alone and stabbed her 16 times in her living room.
Her father says he thinks that the largely private nature of texting is an important aspect of the problem.
“When I was growing up, we had one phone in the whole house, and if you were fighting with your girlfriend, everybody knew about it,” Cuccia says.
Text Messages Become a Growing Weapon in Dating Violence...Part 1
The text messages to the 22-year-old Virginia woman arrived during the day and night, sometimes 20 or 30 at once. Her ex-boyfriend wanted her back. He would not be refused. He texted and called 758 times.
In New York, a 17-year-old trying to break up with her boyfriend got fewer messages, but they were menacing. “You don’t need nobody else but me,” read one. Another threatened to kill her.
It is all part of what is increasingly called “textual harassment,” a growing aspect of dating violence at a time when cellphones and unlimited texting plans are ubiquitous among the young. It can be insidious, because messages pop up at the sender’s will: Where r u? Who r u with? Why didnt u answer me?
“It’s gotten astonishingly worse in the last two years,” says Jill Murray, who has written several books on dating violence and speaks on the topic nationally. Especially for those who have grown up in digital times, “it’s part and parcel of every abusive dating relationship now.”
The harassed often feel compelled to answer the messages, whether they are one-word insults or 3 a.m. demands. Texts arrive in class, at the dinner table, in movie theaters — 100 or more a day, for some.
Harassment is “just easier now, and it’s even more persistent and constant, with no letting up,” says Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the University of Virginia, which became the focus of national attention in May with the killing of 22-year-old lacrosse player Yeardley Love.
Police have charged Love’s ex-boyfriend, George Huguely V, also 22, with first-degree murder and allege that he removed her computer from the crime scene as he fled. Police were investigating whether Huguely sent Love threatening e-mails or text messages.
Kacey Kirkland, a victim services specialist with the Fairfax County Police Department, has seen textual harassment in almost every form: Threats. Rumors. Lies. Late-night questions.
“The advances in technology are assisting the perpetrators in harassing and stalking and threatening their victims,” Kirkland says.
In the case involving the 22-year-old who received 758 messages from her ex-boyfriend — all unanswered — the harassment led to stalking charges and a protective order, Kirkland says.
Harassment by text is only one facet of abusive relationships, which often involve contact in person, by phone, by e-mail, and through Facebook or other social networking sites.
Warning signs hidden
“What technology offers is irrefutable evidence of the abuse,” says Cindy Southworth, founder of the Safety Net Project on technology at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, who says it helps in court and is hoping for an increase in conviction rates.
The General Hospital Teen Dating Abuse Storyline
GH Entertains and Educates Viewers on Difficult Topic
General Hospital (GH) chose to tackle the topic of teenage dating abuse in a recent storyline. The story was/is the ability to entertain and educate on teen violence.
Everyday, millions of daytime fans tune into their favorite soap opera to be entertained with the latest drama which includes the extramarital affairs, evil twins, rapidly aging kids, and returns from the dead. In addition to providing this type of entertainment, the ABC Daytime Drama, General Hospital (GH) has entered into challenging story-lines, specifically because the soap is centered around a hospital. Historically, the soap has dealt with tough story-lines surrounding contemporary topics such as AIDS, breast cancer, bipolar disorder, health care, and addiction. However, GH has recently tackled a contemporary, yet sometimes shielded topic, that of teen dating abuse.
The GH Teenage Abuse Storyline
Kristina Davis (portrayed by Lexi Ainsworth) is 17, has an overbearing mother and a semi-absent father with a questionable lifestyle. She has been in trouble in the past, but has never really taken responsibility for her actions. For months, GH fans have watched as the victim, Kristina, has taken both verbal abuse and an occasional slap in the face from her boyfriend, Kiefer. Kiefer appears to be the perfect boyfriend, he gets all A’s, is involved in sports, and has been accepted into Harvard. However, he has a volatile temper and is very jealous and controlling.
Kiefer pressured Kristina into having sex and bought her a phone so that he can keep track of her at all times. Whenever he is abusive toward Kristina, he tells her that it’s her fault, saying things like “I just love you so much, but you make me so angry sometimes”. Kristina told no one of the verbal and physical abuse that she continued to experience. Ultimately, Kiefer, jealous of Kristina’s interest in another guy, beats her badly enough that she ended up in the hospital numerous times.
Teen Dating Violence Statistics
The fictional GH storyline of Kristina and Kiefer provides viewers a look into what many young people are experiencing with dating and teen violence. According to Love is Respect – National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, teen dating abuse is very common. Research has shown the following statistics:
- 20% of teens in a serious relationship reported being hit, slapped, or pushed by their partner
- About 30% of girls reported being concerned about physical abuse at the hands of their partner
- 25% of teens in a serious relationship reported that their partner prevented them from spending time with family, and felt pressure to spend time only with their partner
- 23% of girls felt sexually pressured while in a relationship and went further than they wanted to because of it
How the GH Teenage Abuse Storyline Educates Viewers
General Hospital has handled this story with compelling writing and acting. In addition, the soap has been responsible by broadcasting a series of public service announcements made by the fictional victim, Kristina (Lexi Ainsworth) after several episodes. Furthermore, in the March 30, 2010 issue of Soap Opera Weekly, Joe Diliberto states that GH is acting responsibly by using the Kristina/Kiefer story to inform viewers about teen dating violence. Consequently, viewers that are parents or teenagers themselves can benefit from the information in this storyline.
The storyline still incorporates its soap opera edge because Kristina happens to be the daughter of a mob boss, and she has accused the wrong man of the attack. Protecting her abuser by lying adds spice to the story; however, this type of protective behavior is not uncommon in these types of situations.
Teen dating abuse is part of the many complex issues that teens have to deal with today. The ABS soap opera, General Hospital chose to deal with this issue by dedicating an entire storyline to the topic. This storyline entertains the viewers, but goes beyond just entertainment by educating parents and teens about dating abuse and informs teens where they can go to get help.
One major trend we have seen is the obsessiveness that young couples can have. Here are some ideas to be aware of:
1) Low self-esteem causes different behavior
If teenagers, or anyone has low self-esteem it can cause them to be more desperate for connection or control. Teenagers, developmentally tend to have lower self-esteem as their bodies change. Low self-esteem can also cause couples to be more jealous and needy of each other, which can be a precursor to abuse.
2) Control can be addictive
I talk to teenagers all day long about what they are anxious about. Many of them feel very out of control and this scares them. Teens tend to rarely be in control; rather they are usually being controlled. They are controlled by parents, teachers, principles, counselors, coaches, colleges and bosses. What they can control is another teenager and this can over extension of control can be a form of abuse.
3) Control and monitoring is now easier
It is actually easy to smother someone without even realizing it. We can text, MySpace message, Facebook stalk, call, IM, BBIM, email or ping. I have often written about teens need to constantly be connected and abuse often stems from people needing to be connected to another more frequently. Smothering, which might not be abusive, but is abnormal nonetheless, is so much easier in a digital age.
4) Obsessiveness can go unnoticed
Because everyone is connected all the time, teens might not even realize how obsessed or compulsive they are with the other person. This allows the behavior to continue far longer and at a much higher rate than ever before.
5) Inequality breeds discomfort
This concept is nothing new. I have heard young couples talk about inequality in relationships. The idea of “who has the power” is something that teens today are much more aware of. It is the reason men wait 3 days to call a girl back (need to be the one with the power) and no one wants to say “I love you” first. This kind of thinking, can lead to abuse or unhealthy relationships.
6) Abuse does not only have to be physical
Abuse can be emotional, verbal, psychological or physical. This is an important idea to explain to new couples. Often times, someone in the relationship (see inequality above) feels uncomfortable, but is afraid to say anything because they think it is normal or would not qualify as abuse.
7) Lack of connection means they need more to connect on
The cotton candy friend epidemic is a huge issue because teens are not feeling as connected or intimate with their friends because all of their interaction is so superficial. This can make young people, who are starving for closeness, crave a smothering or obsessive relationship more than previous generations.
Take care and STAY SAFE!
Abusive behavior is any act carried out by one partner aimed at hurting or controlling the other. Dating violence happens in male/female relationships as well as in lesbian and gay relationships.
A violent relationship means more than being hit by the person who claims to love or care about you. Violence is about power and control. When someone uses abuse and violence against you, it is always part of a larger pattern to try and control you. Even though most people think that violence in relationships happens only between married persons, the same kind of violence also happens between people who are dating regardless of their sexual orientation. Even if you are not being hurt physically, verbal and emotional abuse are just as painful and often lead to physical violence.
A Rise in Efforts to Spot Abuse in Youth Dating
Heather Norris was 17 when she met her boyfriend, and 20 when she died at his hands. In between, Heather Norris tried several times to leave the relationship, which was fraught withcontrol and abuse, before she was killed — stabbed, dismembered and discarded in trash bags.
Her death in 2007 in Indianapolis is one of several stemming from abuse in teenage dating relationships that have spurred states and communities to search for new ways to impress on adolescents — and their parents and teachers — the warning signs of dangerous dating behavior and what actions are not acceptable or healthy.
Texas recently adopted a law that requires school districts to define dating violence in school safety codes, after the 2003 stabbing death of Ortralla Mosley, 15, in a hallway of her Austin high school and the shooting death of Jennifer Ann Crecente, 18, two years ago. Rhode Island in 2007 adopted the Lindsay Ann Burke Act — prompted by the murder of a young woman by a former boyfriend — requiring school districts to teach students in grades 7 through 12 about dating abuse.
New York recently expanded its domestic violence law to allow victims, including teenagers in dating relationships, to obtain a restraining order against an abuser in family court rather than having to seek help from the criminal justice system. Legislators were moved to act after a survey by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene showed that dating violence had risen by more than 40 percent since 1999, when the department began asking students about the problem.
Although there are no definitive national studies on the prevalence of abuse in adolescent relationships, public health research indicates that the rate of such abusive relationships has hovered around 10 percent. 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.
Such behavior often falls under the radar of parents, teachers and counselors because adolescents are too embarrassed to admit they are being mistreated.
They can seek help from the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, where calls and hits to its Web site, loveisrespect.org, doubled in November over the previous month. Awareness of the help line has grown since it was started in early 2007.
Most of the calls come from girls, often in response to relentless texting or efforts by boys to dictate what they do or wear.
While texting that runs to 200 or 300 messages a day can be a prelude to abusive behavior, William S. Pollack, a Harvard University psychologist and the author of “Real Boys” (1998) and “Real Boys’ Voices” (2000) about boys and masculinity, said his research had found that “usually when adolescent boys get involved with girls, they fall into the societal model which we call ‘macho,’ where they need to show they are the ones in control.”
Actions like nonstop texting or phoning often are efforts “to gain control back,” said Dr. Pollack, who is the director of the Center for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.
Reacting to the killings of Heather Norris and other girls by their romantic partners, Indianapolis started a program to train police officers in public schools to recognize the early signs of abuse in relationships. A group of Indianapolis organizations won a $1 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help schools tackle the issue, part of $18 million in grants to 10 communities to help break patterns where children exposed to violence at home repeat it in their adult relationships.
The foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., decided to fund preventive efforts based on research, including from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. In the C.D.C.’s 2007 survey of 15,000 adolescents, 10 percent 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.
Dating abuse victims, the center found, are more likely to engage in binge drinking, suicide attempts, physical fights and sexual activity. And the rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use are more than twice as high in abused girls as in other girls the same age.
“Few adolescents understand what a healthy relationship looks like,” Dr. Miller said.
Adolescents often mistake the excessive attention of boys as an expression of love, she said.
Kayla Brown, 18, was among them. At first, her high school boyfriend made a great impression last year when he “called my mother to introduce himself,” said Ms. Brown, a senior at an Indianapolis charter school.
Then he began “calling me every hour to see where I was and what I was doing,” she said. Finally, during an argument he slammed a chair into a cafeteria table and raised his fist.
She confided in her mother, who has suffered domestic violence, and followed her advice to break off the relationship. But it was not easy. For months, she had friends accompany her in the school hallways, even to the bathroom, to make sure she was not alone with him.
“When he would call or text her, she had to answer right away or there was trouble,” Ms. Norris said. “She became quiet and withdrawn around him, and that wasn’t like her.”
“She hadn’t seen him in four months,” she added, “and was getting ready to go to court because she had filed battery charges against him.”
Mr. Bean was convicted in Heather’s killing last September.
Ms. Norris, an accident investigator for the police, said, “What happened to Heather really opened the eyes of police, the people I work with, who used to look at domestic violence differently,” seeing it as a family matter.
What happened to Heather before she was killed is common in abusive relationships, said Stephanie Berry, the manager of community health at Clarian Health, a network of Indiana hospitals, which is leading the program being financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Many teenagers, Ms. Berry said, “see the jealousy and protectiveness as ‘Oh, he loves me so much.’ Girls make excuses for it and don’t realize it’s not about love, but it’s about controlling you as a possession.”
For Ms. Berry, 43, the issue is personal. Her high school boyfriend “wanted a commitment right away, which was very flattering,” she said. But she soon found herself “walking on eggshells,” she said.
Even after he went to college, she said, the relationship was so “addictive” that she kept returning — until it “turned violent and he beat me up when I was 21.”
A study, published last July in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, suggests that such behavior is not unusual. The study found that more than one-third of the 920 students questioned were victims of emotional and physical abuse by romantic partners before they started college.
The Indianapolis program will train older teenagers as mentors and teachers, coaches and parents as “influencers” who will talk to sixth, seventh and eighth graders about what is acceptable behavior in dating.
In her grief, Ms. Norris created heathersvoice.net to help girls learn when things are amiss in a relationship. “Heather always thought she could change people,” she said, “so I guess I’m trying to follow what she wanted.”
This 2006 Emmy nominated film about teen dating abuse and violence shows real teens telling their stories of dating abuse and violence. The film describes how dating abuse and violence starts, how it progresses, how the abuser acts, and how to recognize it.
- 1 in 5 teens in a relationship have been hit, slapped or pushed by her/his partner
- Teens are at higher risk of intimate partner abuse when comparing to adults.
- Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group – at a rate of almost triple the national average.
- Among female victims of intimate partner violence, a current boyfriend or former boyfriend or girlfriend victimized 94 percent of those between the ages of 16-19.
- Between 1993 and 1999, 22% of all homicides against females ages 16019 were committed.
- Half of the reported date rapes occur among teenagers.
- Intimate partner violence among adolescents is associated with increased risk of substance use, unhealthy weight control behaviors, sexual risk behaviors, pregnancy, and suicide.
- 50% of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually or verbally abused in a dating relationship.
- 45% of girls know a friend or peer who has been pressured into either intercourse or oral sex.
- 1 in 3 teens reports knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped or physically hurt by their dating partner.
- One 33% of teens who were in abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.
- Among 13-18 year old teens who have been in a relationship, 15% said they’ve had a partner hit, slap or push them. 4% of teens agreed that tit’s okay for someone to hit their partner if they really did something wrong or embarrassing. More Hispanic teens (135) reported that hitting a partner was permissible.
- 30% of 13-18 year old teens reported worrying about their personal physical safety in a relationship.
- 20% of 13-18 years old teens who have been in a serious relationship have been hit, slapped or pushed by a boyfriend or girlfriend
If you or a friend is involved in an abusive relationship please seek help. Talk with your parents, get the facts; call the crisis hotline to the agency in your county, or call the National Teen Dating Hotline, 1-866-331-9474 or visit their website, loveisrespect.org and speak to a Peer Advocate via online chat.
It’s not too late, YOU ARE WORTH IT!