Many times, teens who are involved in an abusive relationship will remain silent. They will not ask for help or seek guidance until after they have already suffered for a period of time. This can cause serious physical, emotional, and mental damage to a developing teen.
As adults, these teens are more likely to be withdrawn and depressed. Teens who were victims of abuse are also more likely to be violent and abusive themselves. This can create a never-ending cycle of abuse. Fortunately, there are certain early warning signs that can help you detect dating violence.
These signs can help you intervene and speak with a teen about dating violence before it gets out of hand. Early intervention is the best way to handle an abusive situation before it has the opportunity to escalate. It is important to note that each relationship is different. Behavior that is normal in one relationship may be abusive in a different relationship. However, the following warning signs are generally indicative of abuse.
- Extreme Mood Swings. When a teen experiences extreme and erratic mood swings it can be a sign of abuse. The abuser may have trouble controlling his/her temper. The victim of abuse may not know how to process the realities of the abuse. Fluctuations in mood are normal during the teenage years. However, extreme changes in mood may indicate that there is a more serious problem. If a teen is screaming and yelling one moment and quiet and remote the next, it may be a sign of dating violence.
- Isolation. Does one teen try to keep his/her partner away from other people? Is a teen withdrawn and antisocial for no apparent reason? Possessiveness and controlling behavior can be a sign of an abusive relationship. Again, both the abuser and the victim of abuse can show signs of isolation. Teens who are involved in healthy relationships may want to spend more time alone. However, this time should not be forced. Teens should achieve a healthy balance between time spent alone and time spent with friends and family. If there is an imbalance, it may be a sign of dating violence.
- Physical Harm. Unexplained physical injuries are often a red flag in abusive relationships. An abuser may have scraped knuckles or show signs of defensive wounds. A victim of abuse may try to hide a black eye or other bruises by wearing a lot of makeup or baggy clothes. If a teen continually sustains injuries and cannot offer a good explanation about where they came from, it may be a sign of an abusive relationship.
- Bad Grades. School performance is often one of the first things to suffer when teens are involved in an abusive relationship. Rather than pay attention in school and focus on grades, teens may be caught up in the drama of their own relationships. Dealing with abuse can make it difficult to focus on the tasks in front of them. When grades suffer for no apparent reason, it may be a sign of an abusive relationship.
- Sexual Activity. Sex can be a normal part of a healthy teenage relationship. However, each relationship is different and, many times, teens are not mature enough to have sex. Sex can be used as a form of control. Abusers may want to have sex to boast to their social peers. Victims may feel that they have no choice but to allow sexual advances. When sex is a part of a teenage relationship it is important to make sure that both teens are on the same page. When teens are having sex because they want control or fear the consequences of saying no, it may be a sign of an abusive relationship.
Teens who are involved in abusive relationships are more likely to be involved in abusive relationships as adults. Early intervention is the best way to prevent this vicious cycle from happening.
Make sure you talk to your kids about teen dating violence. If they are the victims, there is help. If they are the abuser, make sure they understand the serious criminal consequences that can occur as a result.