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Resources for Family & Friends

Whether it's your mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend or anyone else, it's painful to know that a woman in your life—a woman you care about—is being abused. Or maybe you aren't sure she's being abused but have noticed things that make you wonder.

What should you know

Bumps and bruises are the most obvious, but not the only signs of abuse. Other indicators include withdrawn behavior, nervousness, lack of eye contact, carelessness about personal appearance, and difficulty with communication or inability to communicate. If the male partner starts making all the telephone calls to family, school, work and so on, this can also be a clue.

In some cases, none of the above applies. The woman may appear to be acting normally even though abuse is taking place behind the scenes.

What you should do...and shouldn't

  • Don't judge. Instead, be available if she wants to talk. Keep lines of communication open.
  • Believe her if she says she's being abused. Assure her she's not to blame. Remind her you care about her and her safety and you will help her.
  • Recognize your responsibility to be observant and take appropriate action. If you want advice about the specific situation that concerns you, call us any time at 905-684-8331.
  • Call police if you feel that something is seriously wrong. If you fear this will make the situation worse, call us at 905-684-8331 for guidance.
  • Give her our number, 905-684-8331, and urge her to call us, even if only to gain insight about her situation. All of our services are free and confidential and we truly care about the women we help.
  • Offer to help her with immediate medical or personal needs.
  • Offer to play a role in her Safety Plan. (This could involve providing emergency shelter or transportation and safeguarding pre-packed luggage, documents and/or money that she would need in an emergency.)
  • Give her time to make her own decisions.
  • Respect her wishes and her confidentiality.

If you are a parent of a teen

Signs your teen may be in an abusive relationship:

  • Has unexplained scratches or bruises
  • Has a change in personality – particularly an outgoing upbeat teen becomes quiet and withdrawn.
  • Starts to have problems at school.
  • Stops hanging out with her friends.
  • Can’t seem to make decisions for herself.
  • Has a sudden change in the way she dresses or looks.
  • Starts using drugs or alcohol.
  • Gets pregnant. Forced sex can be part of an abusive relationship.
  • Starts showing signs of stress, depression or anxiety
  • Changes in the way she uses the telephone, internet, or cell phone.

About Teen Dating Violence

A common characteristic of all unhealthy and abusive relationships is the control that the abusive partner seeks to maintain. This includes telling someone what to wear, where they can go, who they can hang out with, calling them names, humiliating them in front of others. Over time, the isolation from friends and family increases, as the abuser insists on spending time “just the two of us” and threatens to leave or cause harm if things do not go the way they want. The same is true of unhealthy teen relationships.

Sexual coercion and violence are also common in teen dating abuse. Again, because of the emotional abuse and control, victims of sexual violence may be convinced they are to blame for what has happened. “You’d do this if you loved me” or “if you don’t have sex with me, I’ll break up with you” are common examples of sexual coercion. In some instances, girls in abusive relationships describe how their partners actively tried to get them pregnant. Rarely do teen girls disclose such sexual abuse to their parents as they may feel shameful, guilty, and scared. Parents need to be aware of the possibility of sexual abuse, and to ensure that they communicate with their child that they are never to blame if someone tries to make them do things sexually that they don’t want to do. And certainly, that no one ever has the right to put their hands on them, period. The physical and sexual violence can escalate quickly in these unhealthy relationships where the abusive partner has significant control over the other.

Teen dating violence is often hidden because teenagers typically:

  • Are inexperienced with dating relationships
  • Are pressured by peers to act a certain way
  • Want independence from parents
  • Have “romantic” views of love.

Teen dating violence is influenced by how teenagers look at themselves and others.
Young women may believe:

  • they are responsible for solving problems in their relationships.
  • Their boyfriend’s jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse is “romantic”
  • Abuse is “normal” because their friends are also being abused.
  • There is no one to ask for help.

Below is a list of tips for parents to get the lines of communication open, but perhaps the best advice for parents is to start talking about what constitutes a healthy, respectful relationship early on with your child. Sharing the warning signs of teen dating abuse with your daughter and saying, “If you know someone who’s experiencing something like this, let’s talk about it, let’s talk about how you can be a good friend and help them stay safe.” Please assure your child that they are not to blame for an unhealthy relationship, and that you are available to help them be safe and happy. Gillian’s Place is available 24/7 to offer advice and support to parents and their daughters who may be victims of dating violence.

Tips for Parents:

  • Analyze your own dating values before you speak with your kids. How do you expect men to act in a relationship? How should decisions be made? How should disagreements be handled? You need to assess your views and be able to explain your reasoning.
  • Provide some “rules of dating” – give your daughter some clear examples of appropriate behavior in a dating relationship. Talk to them about the standards of conduct you expect rather than letting uncontrolled outside influences be their only source of information. The Teen Dating Bill of Rights is an excellent resource.
  • Tell the whole truth…the good and the ugly – Teen girls generally view dating very romantically, and you should definitely support these expectations. However, you also need to be realistic with them about the bad things that can happen. Let them know that violence is never acceptable. Give them suggestions or phrases to help them get out of difficult situations safely.
  • Teach assertiveness, not aggressiveness. – It is crucial to teach your teen that if they do not want to do something, they need to say so. Teens need to make their feelings known by stating their opinions, desires and reactions clearly.
  • Teach negotiation – Being able to compromise is a skill even adults struggle with. However, you need to help your daughter understand that compromising and taking turns are positive steps to a healthy relationship and that violence, threats, and insults from their partner have no place in a respectful negotiation.
  • Warn them about red flags – Your daughter needs to understand that jealousy, sexual coercion and controlling behavior are warning signs of abusive behavior, and to realize that any incident of violence in a relationship is a predictor of very serious problems that may not only continue, but escalate in the future.
  • Establish an open and honest relationship – Secrecy that isolates teens from friends and family is not acceptable and can be the first sign of manipulation and coercion. Teach them that being strong means relying on the appropriate authorities when necessary.
  • Be a role model – Children and teens learn by observing those around them, especially their parents. It is critical that you respect yourself, your partner and other people if you want your teen to do the same.
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