By Bobbi Sudberry

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and this is what you need to know…

There comes a time when young people start to have intimate feelings towards another. The person of interest is someone they want to get to know and share things with on a more intimate level than just being friends. The affection they share for each other is natural. It is part of growing up. They come to this by instinct, but also by what they see go on around them. There seems to be an emphasis on pairing up with someone eventually. Why not, everyone else is doing it. The thing about entering into a relationship with someone is that it is very important to understand what a healthy relationship is and how to exercise certain rights and responsibilities in a relationship.

If you sat down and really thought about the elements of a healthy relationship most would come up with characteristics such as Patience, Empathy, Acceptance, Caring, Equality (P.E.A.C.E.), Respect and honesty. Yet, how often do we actually sit down and assess what goes into a healthy relationship. We go through life emulating what we see. As they would say, Live and Learn.

For those raised in an environment in which domestic violence takes place they believe that to be the norm. They believe that power and control is how to express their love. Well, why not, this is what they have lived with and therefore learned. A lot of history is based on power and control at various levels. Those raised in healthy environments understand the elements of a healthy relationship to some degree, but don’t always understand what to expect from another in a relationship, much less what is expected of them. Or they enter into a relationship with someone that in the beginning is very kind and caring, but eventually, as time goes by, they unfold as an insecure and possessive individual.

Did you know according to a study done by the American Psychological Association in 2013 41% of young women report being a victim in an abusive relationship? Keep in mind that abuse is not just physical. Abuse comes in many forms, verbal, emotional and psychological usually precedes any physical abuse. Some abusive relationships never get physical, but they are abusive nonetheless because the abuser is exercising power and control. Victims of abusive relationships do not enter into those relationships knowing they are going to be abused. Abusers know they must act appropriately, kind and nice at least until the victim is emotionally invested. It is at this point that the abuser begins to outwardly show their insecurities, possessiveness and jealousy. Often times early on, the abuser shows signs of possessiveness and jealousy, but will justify their reactions in a flattering way, such as:

  • They want to be with you all the time in one way or another.
    • An abuser will pass this off as they really like, love or care for you that much. They may believe that in their own mind, but ultimately they are very insecure and want to make sure of your whereabouts and who you are hanging out with.
    • All in all you are still an individual and someone wanting to be with you all the time can cause you to miss class, get behind in projects or your studies, can be very stressful, and come between you and your friends or family.
    • A healthy person is going to respect that you are still your own person and not take issue with you wanting to spend time with others. This is because they are secure within themselves.
  • An abuser will put you down or humiliate you in front of others, and watch for those that play it off as a joke, not funny at all.
    • Negative name calling is not the only way an abuser will put the victim down. They will often times remark about something in such a way that it wasn’t what they said but how they said it.
    • At other times an abuser will humiliate the victim in front of other in an effort to embarrass the victim.
    • Acts like these hurt the victim and makes them feel bad and sometimes inadequate.
    • When you are in a relationship with someone they should be encouraging and empowering you, NEVER EVER put you down in any way.
  • They will dislike the victim’s friends and/or family for one reason or another.
    • The abusers goal is to isolate the victim from the people they love that love them. Primarily so that the victim has no one else to turn to for any reason. The abuser wants to be the center of the victim’s world and for the victim to have on one else.
    • They accomplish this by causing problems between the victim and their friends and/or family by:
      • Telling the victims friends the victim said or did something bad behind their back. Then they tell the victim the friend said or did something bad behind their back.
      • An abuser will threaten to tell the victim’s family i.e. parents, about something the victim may have done or said that their parents may not appreciate. Yea, where is the loyalty in that….
    • A secure individual will have no problem blending with your world. They will want to get to know the people you love and care about. A secure partner is not going to have an issue with the ones you love because you love those people and they love you.
  • An abuser will try to take a superior role in the relationship, be the boss.
    • The funny thing about this is they try to take this superior role simply because they are inferior or feel that way
    • Think about this, if you are dating someone, usually they are right around your own age, so do they really know so much more than you do that they should tell you what to do and/or how to act? Where is the enjoyment in being with someone that is giving you orders and telling you what to do?
    • Your partners should always treat you as an equal and be open to your ideas and opinions. When you are in a relationship with someone, you should be able to enjoy your time with them.

At the end of the day each and every one of us is responsible for our own actions. There is absolutely no excuse to abuse another being in any way. Some people in relationships try to help or fix someone. None of us have the power and control to fix another. We can only fix ourselves. The person you choose to share your time with should be confident, aspiring, encouraging, respectful, honest, patient, empathetic, accepting, caring, and treat you as an equal.

Consider this:

  • Why would someone who cares for you say negative and demeaning things to you or about you?
  • What right does anyone have to put their hands on you or anyone else in an aggressive manner?

Bottom line, if someone does or says something that makes you feel uncomfortable or you have a gut feeling that something is not right, then trust you and your gut. Consider talking with a trusted adult to help you navigate and resolve the situation.

You may want to check out our article What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?