Teen Dating Abuse
“Don’t smother each other. No one can grow in the shade.” ~ Leo Buscaglia.
Abuse knows no rules, no boundaries, and does not take exception with the wealthy or the poor. Abuse doesn’t care if you are the clever one, the beauty, or the hunk down the street. Anyone can find themselves in a potentially abusive relationship. Once in one of these relationships it may place you in a trance and you may find yourself unable to extract yourself.
Domestic violence is also known as intimate partner violence. Violence is an interesting word. It can speak about physical harm, sexual harm, or an entire array of emotional repercussions. Often people think domestic violence has to do with marriage, hence the word domestic. If we use the description of intimate partner violence we see it opens up how we think about abuse.
Can teenagers be involved in intimate partner violence? Absolutely. Teenagers date, they engage in sexual intimacy, and they spend lots of time together. Most of their time together is spent in isolation and away from the watchful eyes of others. This is clearly different than a married couple where parents, in-laws, and even neighbors or children have a viewing angle of the relationship. Teen relationships often exist in a very private setting.
The nature of the privacy lends itself well to abuse, violence, verbal tirades, brainwashing, confusion, distortions, and one partner feeling they must do what the other wants. Often teens are dealing privately with drug and alcohol issues, suicide threats, pregnancies, abortion, physical violence, sexual violence, or sexual acts that they don’t want to engage in.
Women, and this includes young women, are more vulnerable to developing posttraumatic stress disorder. There is some understanding of this in the research.
Women are twice as likely to develop PTSD. In a 2004 study of women veterans in military service it was concluded that women in military service were more likely to develop military PTSD if they had a history of military sexual assault, childhood sexual assault, or civilian sexual assault.
Many studies have shown the connection of prior traumatization to risk for developing PTSD as well as for revictimization. It is not that women or men who have been victimized and traumatized choose to have a repeat of these circumstances. We discussed in earlier blogs the way the brain and limbic structures are affected by trauma. If the limbic system structures are over sensitized it places individuals at greater risk due to the inability to correctly ascertain or discern safe from unsafe in the environment and in interpersonal relating.
Research has indicated childhood exposure to violence can result in negative mental health repercussions in childhood and later adulthood. A 2011 study attempted to determine if there was a difference between childhood exposure to violence and PTSD by looking at two different violence exposures. The study looked at children who witnessed violence (domestic violence) and those who experienced violence (child abuse). This study found a correlation between later development of PTSD or current PTSD as related to child abuse only or a combination of child abuse and witnessing but not to witnessing only.
Anyone can develop posttraumatic stress disorder. Not everyone exposed to traumatic events will.
Specific risk factors include the following:
Any one who has witnessed a violent act or has been repeatedly exposed to life-threatening situations. If you feared harm could come to yourself or another or the threat of death was imminent this is understood to mean life threatening.
Victim survivors of domestic violence or intimate partner violence.
Victim survivors of rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse.
Victims of physical assault.
Victims of other violent acts at work, in school, or in the public.
History of bullying. Physical, sexual, and verbal bullying.
Survivors of car accidents or other accidents involving public transportation.
Survivors of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, wild fires, avalanche, and tsunami’s.
Survivors of major disasters or events such as terrorist attacks, nuclear reactor accidents, and industrial accidents affecting the populace.
Civilian victims of war.
Childhood history of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.
Professionals who work with victims of trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder.
Individuals who are diagnosed with a life threatening or terminal illness.
Individuals who must undergo a major medical procedure.
Anyone who learns of the sudden death, kidnapping, or grave harm coming to a close relative or friend.
Where teenagers are concerned. It is common in the United States to give teens freedom so they can learn about the world before coming of age and entering it. However, there is a big crevasse that exists between giving freedom and turning a blind eye. Too many teens have little to no supervision. This is largely due to parents having stepped back, given up, or adopted a belief that this independence is good for growth and development. It is good for being exposed to trauma. It is good for making secrets that will endure through a lifetime. It is good for sending the message to your teen that they should know what they could not possibly know about life.
Stay connected. Know where your teens are. Keep rules. All age groups must abide by structure and rules. Why should this be any different with teenagers? Close families, knowledge of what your teen is doing, and involving yourself in your teens life will help with resiliency.
Be well and take care,
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
Madhur R. Kulkarni, Sandra Graham-Bermann, Sheila A.M. Rauch, and Julia Seng, “Violence in Childhood as Correlates of Adulthood PTSD,” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 26 (2010): 1264, accessed March 30, 2013, doi: 10.1177/0886260510368159.
Alina Suris, Lisa Lind, Michael Kashner, Patricia Borman, and Frederick Petty, “Sexual Assault in Women Veterans: An Examination of PTSD Risk, Health Care Utilization, and Cost of Care,” Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine 66 (2004):749-756.
Burton Mongelluzzo, N. (2013). Teen Dating Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/angst-anxiety/2013/04/teen-dating-abuse/