Squash the relationship if it's abusive

Fifty-seven percent of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a relationship, according to research commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. in February 2005.

Quick facts about sexual and dating violence

— Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.

— Violence against women occurs in 20 percent of dating couples.

— Only 33 percent of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.

— Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group, at a rate almost triple the national average.

— A bad beating is the No. 1 reason women end up in the ER.

— Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications for victims: Many will continue to be abused in their adult relationships and are at a higher risk for substances abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, and suicide.

Statistics provided by: Journal of the American Medical Association, Michigan Domestic Violence Prevention & Treatment Board, Liz Claiborne Inc., U.S. Department of Justice, and Barton Erickson, coordinator of Cornerstone’s P.A.V.E. program

When a teenage relationship suffers from dating violence, it is like a pop bottle being shaken up — you’re worried about opening the cap because you know it’s going to blow up in your face.

But it becomes dangerous when it goes from hearing “I can’t wait to see you after school, you’re so cute” to verbal and physical abuse.

“In an abusive dating relationship, a person repeatedly threatens to, or actually acts in a way that verbally, emotionally, physically or sexually injures their girlfriend or boyfriend. It doesn’t happen once, but again and again,” according to the web site of a domestic violence prevention group, Cornerstone.

Fifty-seven percent of teens know someone who has been physically, sexually, or verbally abusive in a relationship, according to research commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc. in February 2005.

Barton Erickson, the coordinator of Cornerstone’s school-based program — Preventing Abuse and Violence Education — has advice for teens on how to recognize an abusive relationship and get out of it.

Things that hide dating violence

1. Most teens who are dating do it without their parents’ consent, which means parents aren’t on the look-out for dating violence happening to their teen.

2. Technologies such as texting, online social networking like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter make communication silent. “Before, (parents) could pick up on their kid’s tone of voice,” Barton said.

Noticing the problem — the cycle of power and control

“Abuse doesn’t happen on a first date. It can be difficult for some to see when their relationship has become abusive,” Erickson said.

1. Isolation: Your boyfriend or girlfriend always wants to know who you are with and who you talk to. He or she keeps you from talking to friends and sometimes family members.

2. Emotional abuse: He or she embarrasses you in front of others and makes you feel badly about yourself.

3. Economic abuse: She or he continually looks to you for money and takes money from you.

4. Sexual abuse: She or he forces sexual contact or intercourse.

5. Threatening behavior: He or she threatens to hurt you or commit suicide if the relationship ends.

6. Double standards: She or he can go out with friends, but you can’t. He or she makes all your decisions for you and decides what’s best for you.

7. Intimidation: He or she frightens you by throwing things or tantrums.

Getting out

If you feel your relationship has become abusive, and you want to get out of it, here are the steps to take:

1. Contact guidance counselor at your school or a local domestic violence agency for help with a safety plan.

“The most dangerous time in an abusive relationship is at the end of the relationship,” Erickson said. “When it’s all about power and control and you strip (him or her) of all that attention … even if they haven’t been physically violent, there is potential for (him or her to become) physically violent for the first time.”

2. Develop your safety plan:
— Break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend in a public place. “Don’t have your transportation dependent on (him or her). Have a friend or parent pick you up,” Erickson said.

— If your parents have not been aware of the abuse occurring in your relationship, or even about the relationship, make them aware now.

— Enter 911 into your phone under a named entry like Aaron, which will come up first on your contacts list, or under Mom, that way you can just say you are calling your mother and your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t pick up on the fact that you are dialing only three numbers.

— If you and your boyfriend or girlfriend attend the same school, meet with your guidance counselor or principal to talk about what will need to happen if the person doesn’t leave you alone after the break up. When a student breaks a leg, he or she is given a hall pass that gives them extended time to make it to his or her next class. Schools should be able to offer a victim of dating violence the same thing, Erickson said. Also, some hallways may be designated as ones your ex-partner can’t use in order to make it safe for you to get to class.

Staying safe in school could require getting a restraining order with police, Erickson said.

— Inform as many people as you can about the situation. This could feel awkward, but it is meant to protect you. The more people who know that your ex-boyfriend or girlfriend should not be bothering you, the better, Erickson said.

For more information about dating violence and how to get help, visit Cornerstone’s web site.

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