Teen Violence Expert Answers Your Questions

Dear Arlene,
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.

Katrin in Los Angeles writes:
I'd like to help my cousin with ending an abusive and threatening relationship. She is afraid of her boyfriend hurting her family as he previously threatened -- thus is waiting for the "right time" and "the right way" to end it "without provoking him" or involving her family. Could you please give some suggestions or references to help with ending such a relationship. Thank you.

Dear Katrin,
What your cousin is feeling is very much the way most girls in abusive relationships feel. Please take what I'm going to tell you very seriously and show this message to your cousin. A person who makes a threat to harm another person is very dangerous. So dangerous, in fact, that in California, this type of behavior is called a "terrorist threat." Even if she believes that he would never follow through on his threat, she needs to ask herself why she would care about what the "right time" and "right way" is for him. The fact is that with a dangerous abuser such as he, there is no right way or right time and yes, she will undoubtedly "provoke him." My best advice in this situation is that she go to a police department and tell an officer there what has transpired and ask for a restraining order for herself and her family. This may help keep her safer. She also needs to tell her family what has been happening and come clean with them. They deserve to know about the threats to their safety so that they can be advised of his potentially harmful behavior. It isn't fair to keep them in the dark to preserve her own pride.

Pamela in Vacaville, Calif., writes:

How can you get help for a teen daughter who's so caught up in wanting to "help" her boyfriend that she doesn't see or care that the relationship is destroying her own self esteem? It seems that if there's no direct physical violence involved (yet) it's harder to make her see all the red flags popping up.

Dear Pamela,

Most often, the girls who are involved in abusive dating relationships are sweet and nurturing girls. Abusers know this and take advantage of their loving nature. It is not your daughter's job to "help" him. It is her job to grow and develop emotionally during her teen years. She cannot do that by being at his beck and call, afraid that he may do something drastic. In truth, she cannot help him for a variety of reasons, but the best one to tell her is that she is not trained to do so and he should really seek professional counseling if he has so many difficult challenges in his life. They can make a real difference. You may also want to investigate some counseling for your daughter. It is concerning to me that she doesn't care that this relationship is harming her own self esteem.

Pat in Hollidaysburg, Pa., writes:

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