By Judie Bruno
In the middle of a rather chilly winter, this month gives us the opportunity to reflect on and draw awareness to African-American History and Women’s Heart Health. Then of course February also has the dubious distinction of being tapped for National Sweet Potatoes Month, National Pet Dental Health Month, and Spunky Old Broads Month. No, really, I’m not kidding.
Clearly all of these causes deserve our attention, but did you know that February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? It’s a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships, and promote programs that prevent it.
As the mother of three 20-somethings and a teacher of high school and college-aged young people, I want to cheer. It’s time we give our kids an opportunity to talk openly about relationships that may be making them feel confused or uncomfortable.
There are multiple types of abuse. Physical and sexual abuse may be the most well-known, but abuse can also be emotional or even financial – and can happen to anyone, of any age. One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults.
According to loveisrespect.org, physical abuse is, “any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body.” The website goes on to caution, “sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy.”
- Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking.
- Throwing something at you such as a phone, book, shoe or plate.
- Pulling your hair.
- Pushing or pulling you.
- Grabbing your clothing.
- Using a gun, knife, box cutter, bat, mace or other weapon.
- Smacking your bottom without your permission or consent.
- Forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act.
- Grabbing your face to make you look at them.
- Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere.
Emotional abuse includes non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in,” excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking.
Here are some specific examples from loveisrespect.org:
- Calling you names and putting you down.
- Yelling and screaming at you.
- Intentionally embarrassing you in public.
- Preventing you from seeing or talking with friends and family.
- Telling you what to do and wear.
- Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
- Using online communities or cell phones to control, intimidate or humiliate you.
- Blaming your actions for their abusive or unhealthy behavior.
- Accusing you of cheating and often being jealous of your outside relationships.
- Stalking you.
- Threatening to commit suicide to keep you from breaking up with them.
- Threatening to harm you, your pet or people you care about.
- Using gaslighting techniques to confuse or manipulate you.
- Making you feel guilty or immature when you don’t consent to sexual activity.
- Threatening to expose your secrets such as your sexual orientation or immigration status.
- Starting rumors about you.
- Threatening to have your children taken away
Even financial abuse is an unhealthy practice that teens should be educated about, such as:
- Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy.
- Placing your paycheck in their account and denying you access to it.
- Keeping you from seeing shared bank accounts or records.
- Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours you do.
- Preventing you from going to work by taking your car or keys.
- Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.
- Hiding or stealing your student financial aid check or outside financial support.
- Using your social security number to obtain bad credit loans without your permission.
- Using your child’s social security number to claim an income tax refund without your permission.
- Maxing out your credit cards without your permission.
- Refusing to give you money, food, rent, medicine or clothing.
- Using funds from your children’s tuition or a joint savings account without your knowledge.
- Spending money on themselves but not allowing you to do the same.
- Giving you presents and/or paying for things like dinner and expecting you to somehow return the favor.
- Using their money to hold power over you because they know you are not in the same financial situation as they are.
You may be thinking, “Wow! That’s lots of info to digest.” Not to worry. Check out the links below for more info. If you suspect a teen is being abused, call Loveisrespect at 1-866-331-9474. Adults – talk to the teens in your life. Learn the signs. Be an adult who listens. Be an advocate for change.
About the Author
Judie Bruno is a cast member of V-Day Raleigh’s 2018 production of “The Vagina Monologues.” She says, “‘The Vagina Monologues’ speaks the truth of different women, and it speaks in visceral, unvarnished language. It says, ‘Your age doesn’t matter. Neither does where you live, what you own, or who you love.’ We, as women, share these truths.”