Dating's Ugly Little Secret
Abuse: The Warning Sings of Out-of-Control Teen Relationships
One of every three girls will experience some sort of dating abuse before she graduates from high school. Is your daughter one of them?
In "But I Love Him: Protecting your teen daughter from controlling, abusive dating relationships," (ReganBooks $25), psychotherapist Jill Murray gives parents insight into the dark side of teen dating, how and when relationships turn abusive, and the right way to intervene.
Her tone is direct, if not harsh. For instance, she refuses to refer to girls as "victims" and makes clear that an abuser at any age 12, 15, 17 is cruel on purpose.
"I want the book to have my voice and the way that I talk to people, which is reasonably confrontational," Murray said in a recent interview. "I want to get parents and teens into the thinking process rather than the feeling process real quick."
In the book Murray starts by shattering common misconceptions about domestic violence. One, that if a person doesn't have a black eye or broken arm she's not being abused. Two, that abuse happens only in adult relationships.
Emotional and psychological abuse are most common. And most people who fall into these situations had their first bad experiences as teenagers, one-third, according to widely publicized statistics. But Murray, who got the idea for the book while treating battered women in Southern California, says the numbers would be higher if more people understood what constitutes an abusive relationship.
"I haven't met a woman yet in discussing this book who hasn't said, 'Eww, I remember a certain boy in school,' " Murray said. "I think most of us can identify with this in one way or another, but we wouldn't have considered it abusive."
Indicators of abuse
Murray's book gives parents enough information to begin a dialogue. Murray gives some indicators of abuse:
- He is jealous if she looks at or speaks casually with another boy.
- Since dating him, she has become critical of her appearance, talents or abilities.
- She makes excuses for his poor behavior.
- She frequently cries or is sad.
- She spends less time with family and friends and is compelled to be available to him when he calls or pages her.
- He frequently roughhouses or play-wrestles with her.
- He demeans her, then laughs and tells her he was only kidding or that she's too sensitive.
- She frequently has to explain herself to him or say she's sorry.
An abuser, Murray says, usually comes from a home where physical or emotional abuse takes place. He punches holes in walls or pounds his fists when angry. He blames his girlfriend for problems and accuses her of things she hasn't done. Many times an abuser will seem kind and devoted to outsiders, but is jealous and obsessive behind closed doors.
EXCERPT FROM MERCURY NEWS, OCTOBER, 10, 2000
copyright (c) 2000 Mercury News