He’s cute, funny, smart, and (Gasp!) he wants to be with you. All the time! In fact, he declared his undying love for you before your first date. He’s totally into you. He wants to know where you are, who you’re with, what you’re wearing — every nanosecond. Who wouldn’t be stoked?
So he does a few tiny annoying things, like continuously expressing his disapproval of the few extra pounds your hips have acquired. Or he drives recklessly because some guy talked to you at a party. Or he shoves you a little (“Just fooling around!”). And when he says he’ll kill himself if you ever leave him, it doesn’t sound so romantic — kind of creeps you out. But those just slightly weird things pale next to the fact that you’re in looooove. They’re really nothing, right?
Research has shown that 36 to 50 percent of American women will be abused in their lifetime. (Women and girls sometimes abuse men and boys, but nine out of 10 victims are girls or women).
People don’t suddenly turn into abusers when they become adults. Being abusive is in their teen dating relationships. And violence doesn’t always begin with a black eye. It can start small and get bigger. Much bigger. Big enough to send a victim to the hospital or the morgue. In fact, 42 percent of murdered women are killed by their partner (or former partner).
Watch out for these DANGER signs:
1. Sweeping you off your feet and declaring love immediately. This is the number one sign of a potentially battering relationship.
2. Jealousy: Not wanting you to have other friends. Thinking everyone around WANTS you. Expecting you to spend every second with him. Sorry, extreme jealousy isn’t a compliment — it’s a problem.
3. Controlling behavior: Keeping track of whom you’re with and where you are. Telling you what to wear. Picking your friends. Keeping you from getting a job. Taking your money. Threatening to commit suicide, to spread gossip about you, or out you if you’re part of a same-sex couple (gay and lesbian dating violence is under-reported due to pressures not to go public).
4. Violence (physical, mental, or sexual): Punching the wall. Yelling. Insults. Name-calling. Isolating you from family or friends. Slamming the door. Insisting on any kind of unwanted sexual activity. Throwing things. Pinching, pushing, spanking…enough said?
Bottom line: If you’re uncomfortable with your relationship, something’s wrong. Mind your instincts.
Be realistic — don’t expect your mate to change. Don’t believe him when he tells you the way he acts is your fault.
Scenario: You’re alone with your guy and things are going from bad to worse in a red-hot hurry. You’re terrified. What do you do? Get out safely! Do whatever it takes to survive until you can make your move.
Don’t abruptly break off with him. Don’t threaten to break up. Plan ahead. Talk to someone you trust or call 1-800-838-8238 (for victims of domestic violence) or 1-800-442-4673 (Youth in Crisis hotline.)
Battering is the greatest cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
Find someone who makes you feel good about yourself. Don’t become a statistic. Enjoying your relationship means enjoying your life.
Experts consulted for this story:
Linda R. Hamilton, M.Ed.
Licensed Professional Counselor
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
(Expert in domestic violence, child abuse, treatment of batterers)
Director, Project LINK (also) Phoenix Foundation
Spokesperson for Domestic Abuse Project 612-874-7063
Ruth Anne Koenick
Director, Sexual Assault Services and Crime
If You Love Me, Don’t Hurt Me: Teens and Dating Violence by Ina Mitchell from United Health Care of Arizona