In addition to February being Black History Month, it is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. I would like to share a story about being in an abusive dating relationship abusive dating relationship as a teen and also resources for learning more and getting help.
A girl, age 15, is approached by an older boy who was 18. He was funny and mysterious and seemed very grown up. She was smitten.
Though he was obviously much too old for her, they began a dating relationship, and progressed quickly from initial meet-up to full time boyfriend and girlfriend.
He would make sure he saw her each day. What started as a fast-paced and fun time, quickly turned into manipulative, controlling, and abusive behavior. He would monitor who she was spending time with and would often criticize her friends. He made up rules that she had to follow and would become furious if she broke them.
He would wait until she was in the vehicle with him and then drive dangerously, much to her terror and protests. If she tried to leave during an argument, he would hold her down and refuse to let her go until she promised to stay.
He would belittle and demean her and even go so far as to criticize her looks, her body, and her family. It took her a year and the enlistment of help from her family and friends to finally get free of him.
She was targeted because she was young, naïve, and came from a troubled home. She had low self-esteem and wanted to be liked. She was a perfect victim for that particular perpetrator. In hindsight, she sees all the red flags; however, when she was a young teen, she was unprepared and unaware of all of them.
That girl was me.
As an adult, it is easy to look back and wonder why I did not speak up sooner and get the help I needed to break free of the abusive behavior of that boy. I blame lack of resources, lack of awareness of these issues, and lack of support. The mid-90’s were very different times.
There are resources for teens and parents now.
There is a page dedicated to Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, https://youth.gov/feature-article/national-teen-dating-violence-awareness-and-prevention-month that has information and a National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453. There are many links to resource articles on the above listed page.
Another page, breakthecycle.org , has resources for parents, families, and how to become active in raising awareness about teen dating violence.
Finally, I explored loveisrespect.org and found a plethora of information about dating, what healthy relationships look like, finding personal safety, supporting others, and how to get help. Intimate relationships, LGBTQ+ relationships, when family doesn’t approve of the partner, and how to end unhealthy relationships are also discussed. Something that caught my eye specifically was the section on learning about healthy relationships. This page talks about power and control, setting boundaries, the concept of consent, and relationships in a cultural context. There are quizzes, information for families, and more. If you want more information, navigate to the above listed page, text LOVEIS to 22522, or click the call or chat button on the bottom of the web page.
As it says on the website, “Not all relationships are healthy. You deserve one that is.”
Sarah Mears-Ivy brings 13 years of experience in the field of human sciences and advocacy.
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
If you or someone you know has been the victim of dating violence, free and confidential help is available 24 hours a day through the National Dating Abuse Helpline.
Call 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453.
Seek online support at www.loveisrespect.org through the live chat feature.
Text ‘loveis’ directly to 77054 to begin a text chat with an advocate.