Teens in Dangerous Relationships
Almost one of ten high school girls experience dating violence. This percentage rises to one out of five for female college students. These shocking numbers are not new. A 1957 study found 62% of girls surveyed experienced aggressive acts during their senior year of high school. Current research shows young women between 16-24 suffer the highest number of violent incidents of any female group. The majority of their offenders are dates and steady boyfriends.
When a young couple enters the serious stage, behaviors often change to stereotypical roles. The boyfriend may take charge since he’s the “man” and start controlling his girlfriend’s behavior. Acting as the “woman”, she frequently agrees to his new role.
Although gradually changing toward more equality, our culture still supports both sexes in this unhealthy behavior. An early lesson for females is the extreme importance of a boyfriend. Without a boyfriend many girls feel like failures. With a boyfriend they tend to let him be the boss – often regardless of how he treats them. Pre-teen girls are surrounded by messages telling them to make themselves attractive and agreeable to men – including playing second class citizen. One young woman recalls discovering it was better to “act dumb” around boys by the sixth grade if she wanted their attention. Our society pushes the idea of weak females as ready victims.
Violence against women is a common part of our everyday language and behavior. It occurs repeatedly in video games, movies, and television. This dominance encourages teen violence. Interviewed recently, teen males asked about their violent behavior admitted trying to frighten or force their girlfriends into doing whatever they wanted.
Girls involved with a violent boy are coerced into giving up their friends and opinions, and going along with drinking, drugs, or unwanted sexual behavior. Frequently the coercion is subtle, as in the form of “if you love me you’ll do what I want you to”. Verbal abuse is a common method of further control, and this type of intimidation may eventually be accompanied by physical force. Many young woman accept extreme jealously, possessiveness, and verbal or physical abuse as signs of affection. Girls who accept dating violence often end up in a violent adult relationship.
We need to stop accepting the open abuse of women and teach healthy gender roles. By promoting pre-teen communication skills, self-respect, and awareness of abusive behavior, the shocking statistics of dating violence can change.
If you or someone you know is experiencing teen dating violence, call the Family Refuge Center for assistance. Programs on dating violence are available to students and community organizations. FRC is a non-profit organization, free to all who need help 24 hours a day. In Greenbrier County call 645-6334, Pocahontas 799-4400, and Monroe 772-5005. (Statistics from When Violence Begins at Home, Wilson)By Nan Malone