Is my teen in an abusive relationship?

Deb King is a recent member of the RespectTeam and the founder of Jennifer's Harbor, a local resource for victims of domestic violence and their families. Since February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, she's here to share some signs and tips for parents who believe their teenager is involved in an abusive relationship.

Signs your teen may be in an abusive relationship: 

  • Spending less time with friends with family (isolating)
  • Excessive texts, calls from partner
  • Lack of interest in things that used to be important to your teen
  • Overly concerned about how partner will react to a situations
  • Making excuses about partner’s behaviors
  • Your teen might casually mentions violent behavior, but will then laugh it off as a joke 
  • Noticeable injuries that when asked how they happened, the explanation does not make sense. Difficulty making decisions
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Changes in personality
  • Partner calls your teen names and puts him/her down in front of other people
  • Partner acts extremely jealous of others, especially others of the same sex
  • Partner violently lose his temper or breaks objects

Tips if you suspect your teenager is involved in an abusive relationship:

Share your concern with your teen. Listen and do not speak while your teen shares his/her story. This will be extremely difficult, but is very important to help discern the extent of the abuse.

Be prepared that your teenager may refuse to speak with you about the abusive relationship. Have a trusted person ready to speak with him/her. (Respect Team, Remedy Live, etc)

When you do have the opportunity to speak, keep your focus on your teen. Do NOT put down the abusive partner. If you speak poorly of the partner, your teen will immediately shut down and stop listening and might even become more committed to the abuser. Make sure you focus on your love for your teen, not your disgust for the abuser.

Give specific examples of times you have noticed that your teenager seems unhappy while with this partner.

Warn your teen that abuse always gets worse.

Do not allow your anger of the abusive relationship to manifest itself personally on your teen. If your teen is in an abusive relationship, he/she is already hearing on a regular basis how stupid they are. What your teen needs to hear is “We love you, what can we do to help you?”

Do not give up on your teen! It is extremely difficult to leave an abusive relationship. On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good. Ending an abusive relationship will be one of the strongest things your teen will ever do. Always encourage and be ready to listen. Let your love win!