Abusive relationships are becoming increasingly common among teens, according to recent studies, with one in three girls likely to be involved in an abusive relationship before graduating from high school. Dr. Jill Murray, a leading authority on abusive dating relationships, answers your questions about teen dating and how to spot warning signs of emotional and physical abuse.
Below, Dr. Murray answers a selection of questions viewers sent to ABCNEWS.com following "20/20's" report on abusive dating relationships (See Related Story). If your question was not answered, visit Murray's Web site at http://www.drjillmurray.com/.
Lisa Harrelson in Hartshorne writes:
I have a question about a boy who yells at me and I don't know what to do because he threatens that if I stop talking to him that he will kill himself. I want to leave but I want him to be ok too, so what should I do?
I can imagine how worried you are about his boy. Please know that abusers use the threat to kill themselves very frequently. While it is usually a manipulation to keep the girl with him, you should take all threats of suicide seriously. Because you are not the best person to actually help such an unstable person -- you are a teenager without the training and resources to really help in a meaningful way -- the very best thing you can do for him is to tell a school counselor, his parents, or the police of his threats. They are in a position to make a difference for him. If you are worried that he will be angry with you for telling an authority figure, you can see clearly that he was just trying to manipulate and frighten you; something that healthy, loving people don't ever do to the partners they care for.
Arlene in Charlotte, N.C., writes:
I watched this segment of "20/20." After watching tonight, I am very concerned for my daughter's safety. She is 21 years old and living with her boyfriend, who is 22. At the present time, we notice emotional abuse on his part. He curses and belittles her. My daughter mentioned to me he has never hit her, but after watching this segment tonight, I am very worried and do not know what to do. I have spoken to my daughter several times and explained to her that this may lead to physical abuse. Of course, she will not listen to me and continues to see him. He does not trust her. He needs to know who she is with, where she is. She is moving out of their apartment this weekend, but he is so obsessed with her and does not want to end their relationship. My husband and I are so frightened that this may lead to a tragic ending. Can you please advise me.
I am hoping to hear from you soon.
Thank you so much.
I'm relieved that your daughter thinks enough of herself to move out of the apartment. That's a very good step. I like to talk to young people about love being a behavior, rather than a feeling. You can ask her if she believes that a loving boyfriend would curse at her, belittle her, have to know where she is at all times, and not trust her. You see, love and fear can never co-exist. Love and sadness can never co-exist. Certainly, he doesn't want to end the relationship; abusers are extremely dependent people. Your daughter sounds like a lovely young woman who deserves better. Asking her why she thinks this is the best that she deserves may be a starting point for an important conversation.