Abusive Relationships

It isn't only adults that are at risk for abuse.

Teens are at risk of abuse in their dating relationships just as much as adults are. It is not always easy to know or understand the signs of abuse, when the person who loves or cares about you, chooses to hurt you.

What is Abuse?

  • Dating violence has been defined as, ‘any intentional sexual, physical or psychological attack on one partner by the other in a dating relationship.’ (Health Canada, 1995.)

As with domestic abuse with adults, the patterns of teen relationship abuses are the same. Teens can be impacted in many ways by various abusive behaviors of their partner.

  • Emotional abuse often includes many forms of crazy-making that makes the victim feel powerless and very vulnerable by:
    • Trying to manipulate or control the other by using humiliation
    • Imposing guilt- “if you leave, I’ll do this….or this…….”
    • Attacking personal traits and behaviors of the victim…“you always do this annoying thing      or say these stupid things”
    • Starting and spreading rumors – face to face, using email, chat rooms, social networking sites or cell phones and/or pictures
    • Name calling and put downs….”you’re so ugly, fat, stupid…..”
    • Making threats to impose violence against them, their family or even their pet
    • Using blame and shame, “it’s all your fault...you made me do this……”
    • Being jealous or possessive…..”you belong to me”
    • Social isolation –keeping their friends away and apart from their activities

  • Physical abuse includes any kind of unwanted physical contact that uses physical force over the other by:
    • Hitting, slapping
    • Grabbing, pinching, biting
    • Pushing, shoving
    • Restraining or blocking exits, doors
    • Throwing objects or breaking things
    • Using or threatening to use weapons
    • Stalking physically or stalking by using a cell phones

  • Sexual abuse includes any forced or unwanted sexual contact including:
    • Any unwanted touching,
    • Any forcing or pressuring a partner to consent to sexual activity
    • Rape, attempted rape
    • Attempting or having intercourse with a person who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
    • Sexual harassment
    • Pressuring, manipulating or coercing, ex. “If you love me you would.”
    • Not respecting that when a person says ‘No,’ that it means ‘No’.

The Impact of Technology Today:
- Today’s teens are exposed to an exciting world outside of their own back yard at an early age, due to the technology that is part of our daily lives. This has made youth today a part of a new era of information that is instantly accessible, available anytime, from anywhere.
- With every positive there is also a negative. We are bombarded today with information about youth involved with cyber bullying and how it is influencing teens today in their relationships. Many barriers come down when involved with using the internet by sending hateful emails messages, text messages, chat room messages or posting on the various social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Youth are sponges for information and if violence towards each other is acceptable online, it will also be reflected in their face-to-face dating relationships.

Media Violence as a Negative Influence.
- Much of today’s media depicts aggression and violence in personal relationships that seems to make it acceptable behavior in our everyday lives.
- What’s available on prime time television is often very sexually explicit and often demonstrates sexual violence against women and children.
- Reality shows depict many demeaning and put-down behaviors in personal relationships that appear to be the ‘norm’ including lust, betrayal and backstabbing towards others including our ‘friends’.

How to help teens engage in positive dating relationships?
There has been much research done today on teen abuse and dating relationships and the recurring theme is that prevention is possible by educating teens about appropriate healthy relationships and setting personal boundaries. Most youth respond positively to learning new ways of preventing abuse and dealing with conflict in their relationships. This is confirmed in the research that reports, “the frequency of dating violence among youths could be reduced drastically with a small investment in time and money.” (Dr. David Wolfe, Centre for Addictions and Health, 2008)
Understand that your child or teen is watching you in your daily life, as you interact with your spouse, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, neighbors or even strangers that you meet. Even though, it may seem trivial or not important, every negative act that you show towards others, will impact your teen.

• How you respond to your partner will affect how your youth responds in a dating relationship. If you are ever violent towards your partner, your teen will learn how to deal with their emotions towards another in a negative way.
• Teach your teen to be respectful, honest and how to positively deal with issues of conflict.
• Engage with your teen when setting personal boundaries to help them to feel comfortable in their relationships
• Always role model positive behaviors including good communication with your partner.
Some things to also keep in mind:
• Teens and younger adults have higher risks of dating abuse if they have been exposed to violence as a child.
• The statistics today from the Emergency Women’s Shelters report that many children who are exposed to family violence have higher rates of delinquency. Many of today’s crimes involve drugs and sexual exploitation and this is not a very pretty statistic.
• Often children who live in violent families suffer from various ailments including emotional and behavioral difficulties, traumatic stress disorder, physical injury, sexual abuse, desensitization of aggressive behaviors and often demonstrate imitating violent behaviors.