According to Planned Parenthood, relationship abuse affects teens regardless of age, location, or financial status. One in three teens experiences an abusive relationship, and 40 percent of teen girls know someone who has been hit or beaten by someone they are seeing romantically. Yet, less than 25 percent of teens talk with their parents about dating abuse, which can be physical, verbal or mental. 2013 news reports of the events in the Steubenville, Ohio and the murder of Lauren Astley in Wayland, MA demonstrate the need for community education and awareness.
Brookline Teen Dating Violence Prevention Program
In Brookline, Domestic Violence Advocate/Violence Prevention Specialist Doreen Gallagher coordinates AWARE prevention workshops for 7th–9th graders in collaboration with the Brookline Police, Public Schools of Brookline Health Education and BHS peer leaders. She also assists B-PEN with parent programming around healthy relationships and teen dating violence. She also meets with Parent Network groups.
Doreen works with victims of domestic violence, teen dating violence and sexual assault. She provides support, legal options, safety planning and court assistance around restraining orders, and also guidance and support to teens and parents. If parents or anyone suspects a child is in an abusive relationship, it’s crucial to address the situation early. Please do not hesitate to call Doreen at 617-730-2713.
Warning signs or “red flags” of an abusive relationship
Some of the “red flags” that should alert parents to the possibility that a young person may be a victim of relationship abuse include:
- Isolation from family and friends
- Describes girl/boyfriend as possessive or easily jealous
- Wears concealing clothing, suspicious bruises, scratches or other injuries
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyable
- Makes excuses for boy/girlfriend’s behavior
- Loss of self-confidence
These behaviors may indicate abusive behavior:
- Threatening to hurt others in any way
- Insulting a dating partner in public or private- Put-downs and name calling, blaming and criticism
- Obsessive quality to the relationship, constant phone calls and text messaging
- Attempting to control what a dating partner wears, eats, or who they socialize with
By the time parents notice warning signs of abuse, the unhealthy relationship has usually been forming over a period of time. So what can a parent do?
- Don’t be afraid to start the conversation. Express your concerns to your child in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
- Be specific about what you have observed, and your concerns about your child’s well-being.
- If your teen is reluctant to talk with you, help her/him find a trusted professional, a school social worker or mental health counselor.
- If your child is planning a break-up, consider any safety risks and seek professional help if necessary.
- Talk in general with your teen about some of the important relationships in their lives.
If you think your child may be in an abusive relationship of any kind, BHS offers guidance and support through Violence Prevention coordinator Doreen Gallagher (Doreen_gallagher@brookline.k12.ma.us). You can also call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or visit http://www.loveisrespect.org. In the event of an emergency, if your child has been threatened or is in fear of physical abuse, call the police at 911.