Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Teen Dating Violence

Our guest blogger this week is one of Hope House's Children's Therapist, Thada Pulliam, MA, LPC, NBCC

Over the past several years in working at Hope House, I have had the opportunity to make presentations in local high schools on the topic of Teen Dating Violence. During these presentations, teens would often ask questions. Those questions offer some clues as to the on-going issue of teen dating violence, presenting a sad picture of teens today and their understanding of a healthy partner relationship. The following are a few questions they typically ask and my reply.

Q. He only hit me once and promised to never do it again. Can I believe him?
A. Chances are that he will hurt again. If a person used a physical means to release anger onto a person, that is probably a behavior used before and has become a habit.

Q. My boyfriend is under a lot of stress. Is this why he hits me?
A. Stress is not the cause of abuse. It is an excuse, as are other reasons abusers give for their own actions. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and can never blame their actions on someone else.

Q. My boyfriend puts me down a lot, but he never hits me.
A. The teasing and negative remarks can be just as damaging as the physical assaults. He is still controlling through words or looks. If you are feeling embarrassed, hurt, humiliated, or inadequate due to his remarks, this is abuse.

Sometimes a teen (or a concerned parent) will seek a one-on-one session with me to discuss their situation. Melinda* was 17 and was dating Zac*, who was 20. Zac had bruised Melinda’s arms but she related the incident as if it were an accident and said that Zac did not mean to hurt her, but he had become angry with her. Melinda accepted full responsibility for her bruises as if she had inflicted them upon herself.

In subsequent sessions Melinda was able to identify several incidents which would suggest Zac had characteristics of an abusive personality, including controlling all their decisions, expecting sex whenever he wanted it, and refusing to let her spend time with her family or friends. Melinda minimized his behavior by saying that he loved her and that he was frequently in a foul mood due to his family issues.

When Melinda became pregnant, Zac was angry and blamed her. This interaction helped Melinda understand that her love for him was not mutual and that he was not good for her long-term. With the positive support of her parents, Melinda began to see the good in herself and came to believe that she deserved someone better.

If your teen is finding themselves in a similar situation, there are many resources available.

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474
Hope House Hotline: 816-461-HOPE (4673)
Hope House Website:
Teen websites: and

Friday, February 19, 2010

State House Committee Cuts Domestic Violence Funding by 50%

We learned this week that the House Appropriations Committee for Social Services cut state Domestic Violence Services funding by 50 percent—$2,375,000! Current funding is $4.75 million. Domestic Violence Services funding was one of the only Department of Social Services programs cut by 50 percent. For Hope House this translates to a $57,585 reduction for shelter services.

This decision will have a devastating impact on the victims of domestic violence that we serve everyday. This money is for core services, it pays for the life saving services we offer in shelter. We will turn away even more women and children then ever before. Last year we turned away 1,331 women and children because we were full. That number is more than the 1,228 women and children we were able serve in shelter last year. With more cuts to funding the number turned away will only grow.

The headline for the Examiner on Friday, February 12th read “Harbour guilty in beating death. Lynn Kelly was strangled and bludgeoned with baseball bat”. Demetrius Harbour was Lynn Kelly’s boyfriend. With this dramatic and deep of a cut we know the impact will be more lives like Lynn’s lost due to domestic violence.

This extraordinary cut to the Governor’s budget—where no cuts were proposed—came as a surprise in an amendment by Committee Chairman Rep. David Sater (R-Cassville). The Chairman’s amendment included nearly $32 million in reductions to Department of Social Services programs and services for Fiscal Year 2011. Committee Chairman Rep. David Sater said the budget had to be cut by reductions in services that are “not essential” and “not critical.” Statements like this are unacceptable, women and children’s lives are essential and are critical and we need your help in stopping this drastic action from going forward.

All members of the Missouri House of Representatives need to hear from those who work in domestic violence programs, who support those programs, and who are committed to ending violence against women. Our Representatives need to hear the impact these cuts will have on programs and that the proposed cuts will mean more women and children will die because they could not access life saving services.

If you know members of the House Budget Committee it is very important to contact them as the issue is now in front of them for consideration and vote. Follow this link to learn who is on the committee:


• Go to and click on “Legislator Look-up”. Enter your zip code to find your legislator.

• For an alphabetical listing of Representatives, go to

Please help us in reaching out to our Representatives so they can hear from everyone across the state the devastating impact these drastic cuts will have. Ask them to take a stand for abused women and children—cast the votes to restore these essential services for women and children who are victims of violence in their own homes. We must restore the funding!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Power and Control in Teen Dating

This week’s guest blogger is Travis Sappington, a Children’s Therapist for Hope House.

I enjoy working with children and teenagers. I think they are genuine and they know if I am being genuine too. I have worked with children and families in domestic violence situations in our shelter services and outreach programs for over three years. My hope is that I make them feel safe so they can share whatever they need to.

Dating violence is domestic violence not yet grown up. No one deserves to be abused by anyone. Living free of abuse is a basic human right, yet many of our teens are already experiencing abuse from someone who says he loves her.


In therapy, I use a tool called the Power and Control Wheel for Teen Dating. It illustrates the different types of behaviors an abuser uses to control his victim. Below you’ll see some of the behaviors found on the Wheel, along with actual statements clients have made to me about finding themselves in these situations.

Isolation: Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, where she goes. Controlling her extracurricular activities. Statement heard: “I haven’t hung out with my friends in forever, just with him.”

Emotional Abuse: Putting her down or making her feel bad about herself. Calling her names. Making her think she’s crazy. Mind games. Embarrassing her in front of her classmates. Telling lies to friends, family members, teachers, etc. Peer pressure. Statement heard: “I guess he gets upset when he can’t get a hold of me. He called my dad the other day because I didn’t answer his calls or texts. I didn’t answer because I was in class.”

Economic Abuse: Making her “pay” (usually sexually) for dates, presents, etc. Statement heard: “Yes, he has made me do things I don’t want to do!”

Sexual Abuse: Making her do sexual things against her will or before she is ready. Physically attacking the sexual parts of her body. Treating her like a sex object. Using sex after an argument to make up. Telling her that teasing him is hurting him physically. Statement heard: “Umm…I am scared because we have taken things really, really fast.”

Using Vehicle: Driving fast and/or recklessly with her in the car. Driving her to an isolated place and threatening to leave her. Statement heard: “He has only swerved or jerked the wheel a couple times. It's no big deal.”

Threats: Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her. Threaten to hurt/kill her family, friends, or pets. Statement heard: “He said he would hurt me if I would leave him.”

Using Male Privilege: Treating her like a servant. Making all the “big” decisions. Acting like the master of her in front of her friends. Statement heard: “No, I don’t pick where we eat. He always does!!”

Intimidation: Putting her in fear by using looks, threats, actions, gestures, loud voice, smashing things, destroying her property. Statement heard: “I am always anxious when I am on the phone with him. I don’t want to upset him.”

Do you know if your daughter is experiencing any of these issues? Ask her. Don’t wait for her to come to you. If you need help figuring out what to say, call the Hope House hotline at 816-461-HOPE (4673) or visit one of these websites:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Talking to Your Teen

With February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, I thought it appropriate to discuss the issue of teen dating violence more in depth. In my opinion, it is never too early to talk about relationships and appropriate behaviors in relationships with our children. So, how can adults address these issues with the teens in their lives?


How can we talk to our teens about dating violence? First we must acknowledge that teens are not going to just come to the adults in their lives to talk.

• One study reported that when female high school students were asked whom they would talk to if someone they date is attempting to control them, insults them, or physically harms them, 86% percent said they would confide in a friend, while only 7% said they would talk to police.1

• 83% of 10th graders surveyed at the 4th Annual Teen Dating Abuse Summit reported that they would sooner turn to a friend for help with dating abuse than to a teacher, counselor, parent or other caring adult.2

• Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.3


This says to me that as adults, we need to be prepared to lead the way into these conversations—be prepared to not have all the answers, but be ready to find them if needed. Start the process by gathering information about dating violence. Be aware of the red flags and the signs to look for that indicate your teen could be in trouble. Know the resources available—the teen dating violence hotline number, the Hope House hotline number, and websites specifically geared toward teens. Then start the conversations.


Ask your teen about their friends and what type of experiences they have had. Some examples of questions you can ask:

• How does your partner talk to you?

• Have they asked you to do anything that made you uncomfortable?

• What are your partner’s expectations in regards to sex?

• Does your partner try to control who you can spend time with when you’re away from them?

As the parent, you’re trying to determine if the relationship is a healthy one or if there are red flags. Even if you know the parents of the partner’s family, don’t assume everything is ok. We still need to ask questions. Depending on the relationship between the adult and the teen, some of these questions will be harder than others, but often the hardest part is starting the conversation.

Hopefully we can open those channels of communication with our teens. By talking to them about their relationships, we are preventing teen violence before it happens.


National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline 1-866-331-9474
Hope House Hotline: 816-461- HOPE (4673)
Hope House website:
Teen websites: and

1Tiffany J. Zwicker, Education Policy Brief, “The Imperative of Developing Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Intervention Programs in Secondary Schools.” 12 Southern California Review of Law and Women’s Studies, 131, (2002).
2 The Northern Westchester Shelter, with Pace Women’s Justice Center, (April 2003).
3 Liz Claiborne Inc., Conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, (February 2005).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence occurs across all spectrums of socio-economics, ethnicity, and age. We must address the issue of teens being victims of violence if we are going to break the cycle.  February has been designate as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, bringing much needed attention and resources to the issue of dating violence.

Statistics show:

• Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner—a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.1

• One in five tweens—age 11 to 14—say their friends are victims of dating violence and nearly half who are in relationships know friends who are verbally abused. Two in five of the youngest tweens, ages 11 and 12, report that their friends are victims of verbal abuse in relationships.1

• Teen victims of physical dating violence are more likely than their non-abused peers to smoke, use drugs, engage in unhealthy diet behaviors (taking diet pills or laxatives, and vomiting to lose weight), engage in risky sexual behaviors, and attempt or consider suicide.1

Digital abuse is a growing form of abuse, particularly among teens. Teens have cell phones, are sending text messages, instant messages and blogging. These new technologies bring with them risk of digital abuse, which can include unwanted, repeated calls or text messages; breaking into email or social networking accounts; or being pressured to send private or embarrassing pictures or videos. Though this issue has gone largely undetected by most adults, it is prevalent in teen life.1

One in three teens say they have been text messaged 10, 20 or 30 times an hour by a partner wanting to know where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with. 2 One in four teens in a relationship have been called names, harassed or put down by their partner through cell phones and texting. More than half of teen girls (51 percent) say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images, and 18 percent of teen boys say pressure from a girl is a reason.3

Our children are our greatest asset and we must protect them. We, as parents, must stay aware of the dangers and address the issues head on with our children. Talk to your children about dating violence and what they or their friends are experiencing. Educate yourself to the dangers and the new ways that abuse is happening. There are many resources available for teens that have experienced dating violence and educational materials for parents and teens to learn more about this very important issue.


1From the Family Violence Prevention fund website (
2 Technology and Teen Dating Abuse Survey, 2007 (conducted by Liz Claiborne and Teen Research Unlimited
3Sex and Tech Survey, National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2008