As it progresses we notice a change in the mood of each aspect of the film. The scenes are darker, the music is louder and the look of the teens is changed. This is a pattern similar to that of a young person engaged in a bad relationship.
It starts out all happy and fun, and then the ugliness comes creeping in. In the movies, the victims can figure out that the guy with the ax is scary. When he is your boyfriend, and he is manipulative and controlling, it is a bit less obvious. Young people get sucked in and begin to question themselves. Maybe all the abuse they are victims of is deserved. If only they were better, smarter, stronger or prettier.
Teen dating violence is an awful situation for our sons and daughters to be in. It can happen to anyone and it may be kept secret for a long, long time.
Most young victims will not report what is happening due to a desire to protect their loved one long enough to change them. Most young victimizers will not let the ugly side of them be seen by anyone other than their victims. For these reasons, it often goes untold until long after the relationship is ended, or until there is escalated violence that cannot be overlooked.
A Better Way provides prevention programs to young people to help them gain an understanding of what is acceptable in dating relationships, characteristics of abusers, and what to do if they find themselves in dangerous relationships.
A while ago one of our staff people went out make such a presentation. She took along a college intern who had interest in observing how we handle the topic. While there, the intern decided to share about her own experience. During three of her four years in high school, she was a victim to dating violence.
It was a very sad and scary story, and she had never told her parents or anyone else. When they returned to the office, she did make that call to her parents to share with them, which she said was a tremendous load lifted off of her shoulders. She survived a situation that could have had a much worse ending.
The Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers this: Did you know that two out of three teens will experience teen dating abuse? Unfortunately, 75 percent of parents don’t talk with their kids about relationships.
While numbers as large as those are scary, talking to your kids shouldn’t be. Although your kids may not tell you this, they actually want to have these conversations. Ultimately, by initiating these conversations with your teens, you have the power to set them up to have safer and healthier relationships throughout their lives. For more information, go to www.stand4respect.org.
February is teen dating violence awareness month. Please do what you can to prevent it, not just this month but any time the opportunity arises.
In the movies, only a small number of victims come out OK in the end. Let’s work to better the odds in real life. What we want for our young adults is a teenage dream, not a teenage nightmare.
Teresa Clemmons is executive director of A Better Way Services Inc. in Muncie.