How to Help a Friend Who is Experiencing Dating Violence

 

By Morgan Kelly

Pixabay; Public Domain.

Any form of teen dating violence is unacceptable, but it can be especially worrisome when you notice one of your friends is in an unhealthy relationship. According to loveisrespect.org, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline that focuses on teen dating violence, one in three teens in the United States experience abuse in a relationship. As a result, it is not unlikely that you will know someone who is the victim of teen dating violence. Maybe you have witnessed abuse in a friend’s relationship firsthand, or maybe you just suspect it. Either way, it is important to know the signs of teen dating violence so you can identify problematic relationships.

Every relationship is different, but there are common signs of dating violence. These include:

  • One partner degrading or criticizing the other in front of peers.
  • One partner who makes excuses for the other’s volatile behavior.
  • One partner who is controlling, jealous, and possessive.
  • One partner who has signs of physical harm, such as bruises or scratches.

If you notice a friend is in a relationship that exhibits one or more of these signs the relationship may be unhealthy. While it can be difficult to step in, it is often necessary. But how does one do so? If someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there are many things you can do to offer them your support.The hardest step is often confronting your friend. Be sure to have this conversation in a private place. This will ensure that the victim feels more comfortable to disclose information. Start the conversation by saying you have noticed a pattern of behaviors that resemble the ones listed above, and tell your friends that you are concerned they may be a victim of dating violence or in an unhealthy relationship. 

Once you have created an open dialogue with your friend, it is important to listen and acknowledge the victim and their story. Allow them to talk. Victims of teen dating violence can often feel unheard, so simply listening and believing a friend is a huge step toward helping them. Reassure them that the abuse is not their fault. 

It is also important to acknowledge that they are in a difficult situation. There are many obstacles in abusive relationships that make it difficult for victims to leave, and it is important to recognize these issues. As a friend, you should support the victim as they navigate their abusive relationship. It is not uncommon for a victim to return to the relationship, so be patient if this happens. Continue to offer support by listening to your friend and encouraging them to participate in safe activities with friends and family. 

You can also inform them about how to obtain professional help.  There are many resources for victims, such as hotlines. Below is a selected list of national and local resources that can help victims of teen dating violence, including sexual assault:

  • School counselors.
  • loveisrespect.org‘s National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474, or by text at 22522.
  • The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Call 1-800-799-7233 for referral to a local support group, or participate in the online chat at http://thehotline.com.
  • Here in St. Louis, call the YWCA Metro St. Louis Regional Sexual Assault 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at 1-314-531-7273.
  • Also in St. Louis, the YWCA St. Louis Woman’s Place, a non-residential, drop-in, crisis intervention, education, and support service. The drop-in center is located at 140 North Brentwood in Clayton, MO 62105. To speak with an advocate, call 635-373-7911 or 314-645-4848.

Remember that leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. The victim will need to take their time and make decisions at their own pace. Your job as friend is not to save them, but rather to listen to them and offer them resources that will help them get help. With that in mind it is also important to understand that if an individual is serious danger you should step in and get help from emergency services. Similarly, remember to prioritize your health and safety. The YWCA can be a resource to you as a friend; they can help you help your friend.

Morgan Kelly is a freshman student at Saint Louis University.

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