Teen Dating Violence – Has It Ever Happened to You?

While many people may be familiar with crisis of domestic violence in our nation, awareness of dating violence in teen relationships is not as prevalent.  Understanding, identifying and breaking the pattern of teen dating violence have crucial implications for a teen’s future.  Experiencing dating violence as a teen places a teen at significant risk for abusive relationships in adulthood.

In a study conducted by the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 5 adult women and approximately 1 in 7 adult men who experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner report that they first experienced some form of partner abuse between the ages of 11 and 17.  Per the US Department of Justice, 1 in 3 teens experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, but only 33% of teens tell anyone about it.

Equally shocking is parental lack of awareness of what their teen is suffering.  For example, a study by the U.S. Department of Justice found that 82% of parents whose teen was receiving 10 – 30 harrassing texts per hour from their romantic partner were not aware this was occurring.  Teen dating violence occurs within every socioeconomic status, race and culture, with the abuser and victim being of either or the same gender.  However, for the purpose of this article the victim will be identified by female pronouns and the abuser by male pronouns.

Violence in dating relationship can take the form of emotional, physical, sexual abuse or stalking.  Examples include:

  • Emotional:  Criticizing, insulting, shaming, and belittling comments. Yelling and name-calling.  Dictating what she can wear, music to listen to, whether or not she can get a job, and if so, what kind.   Continuous, unfounded accusations or interrogation of what she does and with whom she spends time.  This may result in her spending less time with friends and family to avoid his rages and questioning.   The boyfriend blames her for his problems, and for being a problem to him.  Tells her no one will love or want her if she breaks up with him, or, he may threaten to kill himself and/or her if she leaves him.
  • Physical:  hitting, pinching, hair-pulling, punching, burning choking, kicking, being hit by thrown objects.
  • Sexual:  Rape.  Being  forced to perform unwanted sexual acts with him, or with his friends.  Forced to have sex without use of protection.  Makes her watch him have sex with another girl.
  • Stalking:  emailing, calling or texting her incessantly (10 or more times an hour) to check on her whereabouts or to justify what she is doing.   Showing up unexpectedly when she is out with other friends.  Leaving threatening notes in her school locker or on the windshield of her car.

The abused teen may not admit to being abused or even realize she is in an abusive relationship.  When meeting with a teen and/or her parents/caregivers, it is recommended to assess for the following as these could possibly indicate the teen is in an abusive relationship:

  • multiple, recurring and unexplained bruises or marks
  • decline in academic performance
  • increasing isolation from family and other friends
  • numerous somatic complaints such as headaches and stomaches
  • significant change in bathing, dressing and other self-care habits
  • stops doing enjoyed activities to spend time with her boyfriend
  • she is afraid of being around her boyfriend and equally afraid not to be around him because she knows how upset he becomes
  • she makes excuses or apologizes for her boyfriend’s mood and behavior to her friends and family
  • she is having more arguments and fights with her parents
  • she feels like she must watch everything she does or says when with him and will do anything to please him to avoid angering him
  • she believes him when he says that she is responsible for how he treats her

Caregivers may feel guilty about not knowing their teen is being abused, or they may blame the teen for not telling them what occurred when the abuse is finally revealed.  Such feelings are best addressed and processed by the therapist with the parents only.  It’s important to let the parents know that sharing their feelings of guilt or blame with the teen is not helpful, and may dissuade her from openly communicating with the parents about any other abusive incidents or contact with the boyfriend that might occur in the future.  Parents should encourage and support her involvement in extracurricular activities and contact with friends.

Laura Mirhoseini, Psy.D.  is a psychologist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center-Burlington.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing teen dating violence, contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223,  visit our web site, or access the National Teen  Dating Abuse Hotline 1-866-331-9474, 1-866-331-8453 TTY or Text “loveis” to 77054 (Peer advocates are available to talk, text, or chat online 24/7)

How do you create and maintain structure for children?

Eight helpful hints for parents

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Diane Bucaro, LCSW, is a therapist at Aurora Behavioral Health Center in Wauwatosa

Have you ever had a parent tell you that every morning they are 15 minutes late to work? Or that their child is  glued to their favorite cartoon and they need to do their homework, chores, and get ready for bed in the next 30 minutes?

Here are some general tips/guidelines I use with parents.

1. Most kids respond well to a routine. Whenever possible have consistent bed times, wake up times, and meal times. (Per Super Nanny 4:30-5:30pm is the best dinner time for children younger than age 5. Obviously, this will depend on work schedules, do the best you can given your family’s needs).

2. Sleep is essential. Children between the ages of three and six need 10 to 12 hours of sleep overall. By age four or five, children typically have outgrown a nap. Children ages seven to twelve need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

3. Have the parent do their best to offer nutritious foods. Parents can have a pad of paper in the kitchen to jot down meal ideas or if you are running low on an item. Preparing meals ahead of time to heat up when you get home, and researching crockpot recipes can be very helpful for busy parents. It is also wonderful to have at least 3 “go to meals” — something that can be made quickly and easily at home (pasta, sandwiches) that is not the drive thru at the nearest fast food chain. When it comes to new foods and specifically vegetables it is also helpful to remember that it may take several trials of a food before a child may say they “like it”.

4. Have house rules and established consequences for “broken rules”. If parents have established consequences they are less likely to become “heavy handed” or ignore them and regret this later. However, sometimes ignoring is an appropriate strategy. An example of appropriate ignoring maybe when the child burps loudly at the table and is looking directly at the parent for a reaction. In situations like that, any reaction plays into the child’s hands.

AUR_108443959 (1)When applicable, use positive reinforcement such as “good job, I’m so proud of you”. Make a behavioral chart or plan for things that may be more difficult for that child. The parent can develop a token system for a specific time frame of positive behavior.

Dr. Matthew A. Johnson, has developed a system called “Positive Parenting with a Plan” which has specific guidelines to use positive and negative reinforcements for behavior.  He has written a book for parents if they need more help to guide behavior for children ages 5 and up. Some kids respond well to time outs or having treasured objects taken away for a short period of time (1-7 days, the younger the child the shorter the time).

5. Organization: a place for everything. This can be essential to get out the door on time. Have a place for coats, shoes, backpacks and papers. Often we take off items off near the outside door or set down bags, unload items. This area can soon be cluttered and in disarray, especially if there are multiple children in the home. Have a system where kids stuff hats and mittens in their coat sleeves as soon as they take them off. Another option is to set out a basket for hats and mittens. Have a system for kids’ school papers after they have completed them. Have items ready the night before school/work.

6. Have adults be positive role-models by taking good care of themselves and overall showing displays of good citizen. Example, you find an iPhone at the library and you turn it into lost and found.

7. If possible, have a support network of relatives and friends that are positive or may understand what it is like to be raising children or may even be able to give you a break from time to time.

8. Screen time, less is more. If you think about it the more time in front of a screen is typically the less time for exercise, academics, creativity and social interaction. Some families decide to have regular TV times, computer or game times as a reward. I often recommend for the television to be off when getting ready for school in the morning, as well as during meal-times and homework times.

If a parent is really struggling with challenging behaviors or there is a concern that the child is often sad, angry, aggressive, inconsolable or having some other social/emotional distress it can be very helpful to have the child/family assessed for therapy services.

For more information, contact Aurora Psychiatric Hospital at 1-877-666-7223 or visit the Aurora Psychiatric Hospital website.