The following is an excerpt from Jill Murray's book "But I Love Him: Protecting Your Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships." Murray, a nationally recognized expert on abusive relationships among teens, offers advice on avoiding and escaping abusive relationships.
What Is Teen Dating Abuse?
Abusive dating relationships and dating violence have increased at alarming rates in the last five years. It is estimated that one in three girls will have an abusive dating experience by the time she graduates from high school. In my professional experience--counseling girls and their parents in this situation--this is a gross underestimation. By this conservative figure, more than eight million girls per year in the United States alone will suffer at the hands of a violent boyfriend before their eighteenth birthdays. Teen abuse is epidemic. In America today, every nine seconds a teenage girl is battered by someone with whom she is in a relationship. What is most alarming is that the signs of potential abuse are also behaviors that young women find most flattering.
I'm sure you never thought you'd be reading a book about teen dating violence. I'm also sure you never imagined that your daughter would be involved in an abusive relationship. Oh, you may have worried about other potential problems: pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and drunk driving. But it probably never entered your consciousness that your own daughter could be involved with a boy who is verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abusive. Give yourself a break. No parent wants to think of emotional or physical harm coming to her own child.
The University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center in Ann Arbor defines dating violence as "the intentional use of abusive tactics and physical force in order to obtain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner." There are three key words in this definition. Intentional is important to understand because it is clear that your daughter's boyfriend is cruel to her on purpose. As we will discuss further in chapter 6, violence of any sort is a learned behavior and completely voluntary. No one forces a teenage abuser to behave as he does, and it is totally within his power to stop. Power and control are also crucial words. Like adult batterers, the teen abuser uses tactics of control and coercion to keep his "victim" tied to him.
Before we go any further, I would like you to consider a few questions regarding your daughter's relationship with her boyfriend. If you recognize some of these warning signs in your daughter's relationship and feel that she may be in serious danger, please call your local police or sheriff's department or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.
IS MY DAUGHTER IN DANGER?
• Before my daughter met her boyfriend, she had more friends than she does now. • Her grades have declined in the past weeks or months.
• Before she started dating him, she was more outgoing and involved with her family, school activities, and/or place of worship.
• She frequently cries or is very sad.
• If he pages her, she must call him back immediately.
• He told her that he loved her early in their relationship.
• He is jealous if she looks at or speaks casually with another boy.
• He accuses her of behavior she doesn't actually engage in.