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: www.hopehouse.net
Teen websites: www.loveisrespect.org and www.loveisnotabuse.com