Recognizing Signs of Abusive Dating Among Teenagers

Feb 15, 2013

Judy Bolton-Fasman

New York Times

Full article: here

I wish February had been Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month when I was growing up. I might have realized that in the era before e-mails or cellphones, my boyfriend’s demand that we speak on the telephone every night was unreasonable. I was in college and my life revolved around those phone calls.

At 18, I thought his behavior demonstrated intense love for me. Young and inexperienced, it never occurred to me that he wanted to control me. In my mind, this was love and love always hurts, doesn’t it? All I had to do was listen to a pop song or watch a soap opera to see that a love worth having was often portrayed as painful, or at the very least, something mostly difficult to endure.

My partner’s extreme jealousy was not a sign of love, but a warning — one that many teenagers in dating relationships mistake as caring or even flattery. Domestic abuse among teenagers is a phenomenon not readily understood within an adult framework. And confusing possessiveness with love is among the most common teenage mistakes leading to dating violence.

In the past few years, domestic abuse in teenage relationships has been recognized as a public health issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a page on its Web site dedicated to underscoring the seriousness of teenage dating violence, which it defines “as the physical, sexual or psychological emotional violence within a dating relationship, as well as stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and may occur between a current or former dating partner.” According to the C.D.C., almost 10 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Add to this the emotional and verbal abuse that can occur in teenage relationships and the rate is even higher.

By Judy Bolton-Fasman