Abuse, whether emotional, physical, or sexual, can affect anyone. Teenage girls are at the highest risk for dating violence: according to a March 2006 survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, 1 in 5 teens reported being in a serious relationship where they were hit, slapped or pushed by a partner and 23% of girls reported going further sexually than they wanted because of pressure from their partner. The numbers are staggering and disturbing for parents.
Identifying when a teenager is being abused can be hard to do. Many of the symptoms may be seen as “teenage angst” or “teenager rebellion”. However, these symptoms are signs that something is seriously wrong:
—constant contact with the significant other (to an obsessive degree)
—quitting activities at the request of the significant other
—physical bruises: hiding them or becoming defensive when asked about them
—frequently becoming ill (beyond normal)
—anxiety and/or depression
As the abuse worsens, victims can turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism, and self-mutilation can escalate to suicide attempts. Supporting a victim of abuse is the key to helping her get out of an abusive relationship. Love is Respect (www.loveisrespect.com), the website for the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, has important resources for helping an abused teenager, including an online chat option with peer advocates. Being a source of love and support is the most important part of helping someone go from a victim to a survivor.
Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch is a bachelor's of science candidate in neuroscience at Trinity College in Hartford, CT. She's the senior co-editor of the Feminist Scholarship Review and Women Unite!