Unhappy Girl Why teens may not speak up about the violence

If your teen is in an abusive relationship, she may not always speak up. There are several reasons teens may want to keep it secret:

  • They are sure that the relationship is the most important thing to ever happen to them.
  • They don’t know they are being abused and think that they are at fault.
  • They feel embarrassed or ashamed.
  • They are afraid of getting hurt.
  • They confuse jealousy with love.
  • They may be afraid of losing friends who are connected to the abuser.
  • Abusers are also capable of very nice behavior, which they love.
  • They feel that things will improve, and that they are the perfect person to help the abuser be a better person.
  • They may not want to break up, and they feel if they tell their parents, they will be forced to.

Signs your teen is in an abusive relationship

Here are some signs your teen might be in an abusive relationship:

  • Failing grades
  • Dropping out of activities
  • Spending less time with the family
  • Changing groups of friends
  • Frequent bouts of crying or emotional episodes
  • Acting anxious or depressed
  • Being secretive
  • Having a hard time making decisions
  • Unexplained bruises or scratches
  • Obsessive thinking about boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits

How you can help your teen recognize and leave an abusive relationship

As a parent, you can do a lot to help your teen learn what makes a healthy relationship, and you can also help her build the confidence to leave a partner who isn't treating her right.

  • Listen to your teen. Give her a chance to tell her story without judging or getting angry with her. You can say, "I care about you. I notice you seem different and I want to help you."
  • Emphasize your teen's feelings. You can say, "I notice you seem unhappy," or "I'm concerned that you may be hurt more."
  • If your teen doesn't want to talk to you, find someone else for him to speak with such as a professional psychologist, social worker or psychiatrist. You can ask your family doctor or the school counselor for a recommendation. Many times, people in abusive relationships make changes after speaking with someone.
  • Try not to insult or put down your teen's partner. Remember that your teen has strong feelings for this person, and speaking ill of him or her may cause your teen to shut you out. You can say, "It's not right for him to treat you that way."
  • Let your teen know that it will most likely get worse, not better. No matter how much she loves him or wants to help him, abusive behavior does not get better without intervention.
  • Tell your teen that no one has the right to hurt, control or intimidate him. Make sure he understands that he is not to blame for the abuse. Explain that people in healthy relationships treat each other with love and respect.
  • If your teen is ready to break up with the abusive partner, be there to provide whatever help she needs. Offer rides to and from school. Involve your teen's friends so that they can support her during school hours. Seek aid from the school counselor, principal or the authorities if necessary.

Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD

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