No parent wants to know that their daughter may be in an abusive relationship, but it happens quite often. Every year, nearly 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from someone they’re dating. It is very important that you have these tough conversations earlier than later since violent dating can begin as early as 6th grade. Relationship violence comes in many forms that may not always be visible to the eye. Dating violence can also encompass verbal abuse and emotional abuse such as threats, intimidation, and controlling behaviors. It is important to talk with your daughter about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships—as well as her right to be respected and safe.
Here are some examples of relationship violence and the warning signs you should look for:
- Unexplained injuries
- Her partner making threatening looks or gestures
- Her partner destroying property or harming a pet
- Her partner forcing her to participate in sexual acts against her will
- Her partner taking sexual pictures or having sexual pictures (digital or hard copy) and sharing or threatening to share with others without her knowledge or consent
- Her partner shaming and embarrassing her in public
- Her urgency to answer her partner’s text and calls
- She may suddenly change her image (may stop or start wearing makeup and dressing differently)
- Her partner may continuously spy on her (having her passcodes to social media sites)
- Calling or texting her constantly
- Excessive contact with her friends to know her whereabouts
- Unannounced visits from her partner to her job, home, or friend’s home
- Expressing disapproval of her clothes, looks, friends, or beliefs
Only one-third of teens involved in an abusive relationship confide in someone about their experience because of fear of exposing themselves or getting their partner in trouble. As a parent, it is important to observe any of the behaviors mentioned above because your daughter may never tell you. You can use this list as a conversation starter and let her know that if she has questions about a relationship that you are there, not to judge, but to help keep her safe.
How You Can Help
Parents, it is important to continue keeping the lines of communication open!
- Find a comfortable place to chat alone
- Share with her some of the things you’ve noticed about her behavior or her partner’s behavior
- Ask about her friends
- Listen without judgement
- Share some of your past experiences and the choices you made
- Ask her what she believes is a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship
- Offer outside resources where she can receive additional help
If you are uncomfortable having this conversation or you feel that you cannot get through to your daughter, let her have this conversation with someone she is comfortable opening up to and trusts.