Most parents dread the day when their daughter begins to date. Usually, it comes much sooner than anticipated. However, romantic relationships are part of a healthy life, so it’s going to happen at some point. And that’s why it’s important for parents to have honest conversations with their daughters about dating abuse.
Teen Dating Abuse Stats
Women between 16 and 24 experience more dating abuse than any other demographic; three times more than the national average. 9% of teenagers experience physical violence from a partner, and far more experience other kinds of abuse. Experiences with dating abuse can last long into adulthood and precipitate problems such as eating disorders, abusive patterns, substance abuse, and risky sexual behavior.
As such, it’s important that we equip our teenage daughters with the tools they need to identify signs of abuse, whether it’s emotional or physical. Dating abuse can also extend to the digital sphere, which makes it even more difficult for parents to guard their children.
Every girl needs the self-esteem to counter the dangers of dating abuse, and a keen eye, along with a little education, to be able to recognize it when they see it – both in their lives, and in those of their friends.
Signs of Abuse
Dating abuse can be hard to spot, and often begins with behaviors that are taken as normal to most teens and their friends. Abuse is not limited to physical violence. Often, it begins with threats, controlling behavior, and violations of trust. Teach your daughter to recognize that if any of the following things happen to her, it should be considered a red flag:
- Her partner denigrates her, or makes her feel belittled on purpose.
- Her partner frequently and even obsessively checks in on her, always keeping tabs on where she is and who she’s with.
- Her partner makes threats if she doesn’t conform to his wishes. Threats might be promises of physical harm, or something that seems more innocuous, like revealing a secret she told them, or sabotaging something important to her. Threats might even consist of a partner threatening to hurt himself.
- Her partner pressures her into physical intimacy, with words like, “if you really loved me…”
- Her partner excuses his own behavior, refusing to take responsibility, and attributing it to substances, moods, or even her actions.
Most important of all, girls who are starting to explore dating need to learn to recognize their own boundaries and to speak out to defend them. Teach your daughter that if she’s ever in a situation where she feels uncomfortable, even if she’s not sure how to explain it, she should counsel with you or with someone else she can trust. Inform her of resources she can use at school, church, online, and in the community.