Know the signs: Recognizing abuse in teen relationships

Press Staff Writer

        According to the Center for Prevention of Abuse, one in three teens in the United States report experiencing some kind of abuse in romantic relationships, including verbal or emotional abuse.
        The center also reports that only 33% of teens in an abusive relationship have ever told anyone about the abuse. Teen dating violence has harmful impacts on future relationships and overall health.
        Zaneh Adya, Teen Peers Educating Peers Program (Teen PEP) manager at ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital, says that one of the best ways to prevent teen dating violence is to recognize if a teen is involved in an unhealthy or abusive relationship early on and intervene.
        Early warning signs of abuse can be difficult to spot, even more so when teenagers are private about relationship details with adults. Oftentimes, teens can attempt to hide abuse if they feel ashamed or embarrassed about the situation. Therefore, it is important to consider their privacy needs when intervening. Betraying their trust by making accusatory statements, creating unjust rules or snooping based on suspicions will make your teen reluctant, preventing open and honest communication.
        Adya explains, “Early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship can include spending an extreme amount of time with a partner, becoming closed off or isolated from friends and family or constantly arguing with a partner.
        “More severe signs are physical injuries or changes in appearance, including clothes, makeup or hair. Parents know their children better than anyone and are typically keen to recognize a change following a new relationship,” Adya said.
        It is important that parents or guardians who suspect their child is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship listen to them. “Don’t be judgmental; try to be supportive and let them share at their own pace,” said Adya. “Encourage them to come to you for help instead of being upset with them for being in the relationship. Make sure they know that it is not their fault they ended up in this situation.”
        Ending an abusive relationship is never easy, and parents do not want to further isolate their child by forcing them into hasty decisions. Work together to create a safety plan to help them decide on the next steps.
        Adya urges parents who feel their teen is in grave danger or at risk of being seriously hurt to contact the local police.


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