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Dating Beyond Control ~Texting

~Common Questions Parents Have~

Text messages become a growing weapon in dating violence

It is all part of what is increasingly called "textual harassment," a growing aspect of dating violence at a time when cellphones and unlimited texting plans are ubiquitous among the young. It can be insidious, because messages pop up at the sender's will:

Where r u? Who r u with? Why didnt u answer me?

"It's gotten astonishingly worse in the last two years," says Jill Murray, who has written several books on dating violence and speaks on the topic nationally. Especially for those who have grown up in digital times, "it's part and parcel of every abusive dating relationship now."

The harassed often feel compelled to answer the messages, whether they are one-word insults or 3 a.m. demands. Texts arrive in class, at the dinner table, in movie theaters -- 100 or more a day, for some.

Harassment is "just easier now, and it's even more persistent and constant, with no letting up," says Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services at the University of Virginia, which became the focus of national attention in May with the killing of 22-year-old lacrosse player Yeardley Love.

Textual harassment is getting more attention as concerns about dating violence mount. In the past several years, about a dozen states have passed or are considering laws to bring dating violence education into schools.

The legislative push comes partly from the parents whose daughter, Demi Brae Cuccia , was murdered a day after her 16th birthday in 2007.

In the days before Demi's death, her parents would later learn, her ex-boyfriend texted her again and again: "You know you can't live without me," he wrote. "U need to see me." And: "I'm ballin my eyes."

When Demi finally agreed to see the boy, he came over when she was alone and stabbed her 16 times in the living room of her family home.


QUESTION: What are some early warning signs that my teenager might be in a abusive relationship?

ANSWER: It is sometimes difficult to recognize signs of potential abusive early in a relationship. Many early warning signs do not give cause for alarm until later in the relationship when things start to go downhill. However there are certain early indications that a relationship may be or become abusive. Here are a list of things that should raise red flags.

1. Unexplained injuries

2. Your teen fears their partner

3. Partner checks up on your teen

4. Verbal abuse by the partner, such as name-calling and demeaning comments

5. Your teen gives up on things that are important such as school, friends, time with family, activities, and other interests.

6. Your teen apologizes for their partners behavior

7. Partner abuses other people, animals, or things

8. Change in appearance or behavior of your teen or their partner

9. Your teen and their partner spend most of their time together

QUESTION: Why do teen relationships become abusive and why doesn't my teen listen to me when I suggest that the relationship is not good and needs to end?

ANSWER: Abuse in teen relationships is about control, just like adult relationships. There are many things that underlie the abuse and many reasons why it is not easy to end the relationship. Here are some of the dynamics underlying an abusive relationship.


Power and control                    Bonds with abuser

Abuse during childhood            Hope that things will get better

Jealousy                         Romantic ideal that love conquers all

Feels trapped                          Feels the partner will not let go

Peer pressure and gender roles                          Lack of resources

Insecurity                                   Low self confidence

Uncontrollable anger                                            Feels trapped

Low self confidence             Does not understand the consequences

QUESTION: I believe my teen may be in an abusive relationship. What can I do?

ANSWER: There are a number of ways to approach and assist your teen if you think your teen is involved in an abusive relationship. You know your teen and should be able to decide what approach will be best. Here are some ideas.

1. Ask questions and listen with an open mind

2. Set limits where appropriate

3. Keep channels of communication open

4. Be calm and take positive action

5. Avoid power struggles with your teen

6. Help set up a safety plan to end the relationship

7. Deal with your anger in calm, reasoned and constructive ways

8. Resolve conflicts with your teen early

9. Mange your frustration so it does not affect your teen

QUESTION: I believe my teen may be the abusive partner in an abusive relationship. What can I do to help my teen break this pattern of behavior.

ANSWER: Once you recognize that your ten might be the abusive partner in a relationship, it is vital that you address this issue in a way that will break the cycle of violence. There are things you can do to help your teen and others recognize the abuse, understand the dynamics behind it and get help to stop the behavior before it becomes a life-long pattern. Here are some ideas.

1. Recognize controlling and abusive behavior

2. Acknowledge your awareness

3. Confront your teen's controlling and abusive behavior

4. Communicate your concerns to the parents of your teens partner

5. Consult with professionals for ideas/help

6. Accept help and support from friends, family and dating violence professionals

7. Support your teen's efforts to stop the patterns of abuse

The chance for a violent outcome increases 90% at the time of the breakup and the week and months that follow. NEVER BREAKUP ALONE!

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