Discussing Dating Violence with a Friend or Loved One
Have you started noticing that your friend or loved one is in a relationship that does not appear to be healthy? Their significant other needs to know where your loved one is at all times, demands that they have access to your friend’s social media pages, and has the password to their phone and other accounts? Have you heard the partner belittle or verbally put down your friend? Is your friend never available to hang out with you because their significant other demands all their time? These are a few of the warning signs that your friend or loved one may be in an abusive relationship.
Talking to a friend or loved one about your concerns regarding a potentially abusive relationship can be difficult to navigate, especially if the friend or loved one doesn't see what you see or refuses to hear what you have to say. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month or #TDVAM. Teen Dating Violence is defined as “the physical, sexual, psychological or emotional aggression with a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person, or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner”. (Learn more here) Being a teen is already difficult as it is, going through puberty, adjusting to new social and peer standards and of course dating. Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% were age 16-19 and 70% age 20-24, were victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
So, how does one talk to someone they care for about the relationship they are in?
The first step is starting the conversation. Inform the friend or loved one that you have noticed certain things that concern you or things have changed, provide examples, and then ask if they have noticed these things as well. If they have, or even if they haven’t, ask how they feel regarding what you have noticed.
Follow their lead; if they want the conversation to end, respect that, but relay that you are there for them if ever they need you.
Remain supportive. Your friend or loved one may not recognize the abuse and may not be ready to end that relationship. That is their choice. Don’t judge them for these feelings, keep an open mind, and if the time is right, let them know of different resources available to them, online and from trusted adults.
Now that dialogue has begun, keep your communication open. Your friend needs your support and for you to listen, not to close them off. Threatening to no longer speak to them if they do not leave their partner or demands/judgments can end up isolating them even further and can do more harm than good. Instead, remind them that you only want to help and that when they are ready, you will be there for them. Verbalizing these positive reminders that they have your support can be encouraging when they are ready to leave their partner.
When in need, ask for support. If you feel your friend is in immediate danger or that their life is at risk or has been threatened, call 911. Talk to a trusted counselor, adult, or call our 24-Hour Crisis Line (800.572.4031) if you want to learn about how to better support your friend. Remember that boundaries, warning signs, and healthy relationships are not as clear when you are in an abusive relationship.
The first thing to say to your friend or loved one when they tell you that they have been abused, is, “I believe you and support you”. Your belief in them will be all that more powerful of a supportive tool than anything else. Sharing that one is a victim of abuse can be frightening, oftentimes the biggest fear being that they won’t be believed, that is why it is vital that you not only believe them but also verbalize that belief. Then, help them safety plan by connecting them to resources like Denton County Friends of the Family, via our Crisis Line 940.382.7273 / 800.572.4031.
Believing in your friend or loved one, listening to them, and supporting them in any decision they make will be the best thing for them. And if they chose to stay with their partner, respect that choice, but keep in contact with them, remind them that you are there for them no matter what.
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