Coordinated Community Response Column: Warning Signs of an Abusive Relationship

This February for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month HELP of Door County, Inc. would like to aid any teens in abusive relationships by teaching those around them the warning signs of Teen DV. According to the National Conference of State Legislature about 72 percent of eight and ninth grade students report that they are “dating.” And of those teens, roughly 20% report that they have experienced emotional abuse and 9.4% report that they have been physically abused in the past 12 months. The first longitudinal study of Teen Dating Violence was recently published at Cornell University and released these shocking figures.

The same study found that females who experienced dating violence in their teens reported increased depression, were more likely to binge drink or smoke, and were twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts in early adulthood. Similarly, males that were involved in violent relationships in their teens reported more drug use, suicidal thoughts, and anti-social behaviors in early adulthood. In both cases, adults are more than twice as likely to currently be part of a violent relationship if they experienced dating violence in their teens. The lead author of the Cornell study, Deinera Exner-Cortens, M.A., explains, “Teens are experiencing their first romantic relationships, so it could be that aggressive relationships are skewing their view of what’s normal and healthy and putting them on a trajectory for future victimization.”

Ideally, healthy relationships and different forms of abuse should be discussed before teens enter their first relationships to prevent dating violence. In an effort to intervene in already abusive relationships, below are signs that a teen you know may be in a violent relationship.

Warning signs of someone being abused:

• Depression or loss of confidence

• Loss of interest in activities and hobbies

• Noticeable changes in eating or sleeping patterns

• Worrying about making a dating partner angry or jealous

• Excuses the dating partner’s bad behavior

• Isolation from family and friends

• Spending too much time with a dating partner

• Suspicious bruises or injuries

• Alcohol or drug use

Warning signs of an abuser:

• Insults made to a dating partner in public or private

• Controlling behaviors (controlling how a dating partner dresses or acts, who he/she spends time with, checking in constantly)

• Personal history of aggression, bullying, or having trouble controlling anger

• Threats to hurt self or others

• Damaging a dating partner’s personal belongings

• Extreme jealousy

For more information about prevention and intervention of abusive relationships, contact HELP of Door County, Inc. 920.743.8818.