Book Excerpt: 'But I Love Him'

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.

Chapter 1

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.

• He is aggressive in other areas of his life: he puts his fist through walls or closets, bangs his fist to make a point, or throws things when angry.

• He frequently roughhouses or play-wrestles with her.

• She makes excuses for his poor behavior or says it's her fault.

• They talk on the phone several times a day or for long periods.

• He has a "tragic" home life: he is or was physically abused or verbally demeaned, and/or one or both parents are alcoholics or use drugs.

• He drinks or uses drugs.

• He frequently gives her "advice" about her choice of friends, hairstyle, clothes, or makeup.

• He calls her demeaning names, then laughs and tells her he was only kidding or that she's too sensitive.

• She has become secretive since she started dating him. She is miserable whenever she is apart from him.

• She has recently become very critical of her appearance, talents, or abilities.

• She frequently has to explain herself to her boyfriend or often says she's sorry.

• She has bruises she cannot explain or appears nervous about explaining to me.

In the next three chapters we'll discuss each level of violence in detail so that you will clearly understand the problem your daughter is facing and the ways in which you can help her now. First, however, consider these statistics on teen dating violence:

• Thirty-six percent of female high school and college students surveyed--more than one in three--said that they had experienced some violence in a dating relationship.

• As many as 50 percent of dating women suffer physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from their dating partners.

• The majority of violence (as much as 86 percent) occurs during the "steady"/serious phase of a relationship.

• Twenty-five percent of female homicide victims are between fifteen and twenty-four years old.

• One in three women who are killed in the United States are murdered by their boyfriend or husband.

• Results of recent interviews with approximately fourteen hundred students in rural North Dakota indicate that students from abusive households were twenty-five times more prone to dating violence than those from homes without abuse.

• Ninety percent of men in prison come from abusive homes.

These are horrifying facts. The bad news is that unless your daughter wants to get out of her relationship, there is little you can do to convince her that's what's best for her. The good news is that throughout this book we will examine the history of her problem--that is, what led her to an abusive relationship--and the ways in which you can go about extricating your daughter from this nightmare.

The foregoing is excerpted from "But I Love Him" by Jill Murray. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022.

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