Monday, October 3, 2011

Teen Dating Violence: Domestic Violence Awareness Month {Guest Post}

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I would like to bring awareness to the issues.  Some people were willing to write some posts on the subject.  This is the first in the series.  If you would like to help bring awareness to the issues and write a post, please use the contact form below and I will respond to you within 24 hours.

Erin Marie's blog is at 365 Changes of Me.  Please take the time to stop by, visit her, and let her know what you think of her experience and post.

Teen Dating Violence

When Brenda posted that she’d like to have a Guest Post about Domestic Violence, I wasn’t sure if she’d want to hear my story or not.  I knew I had one, as I’ve learned most women do.  I wanted to share it but wasn’t sure how it would come across because I’ve never really told it before.  My family, friends, and my fianc√© Andy know about it of course but was this something I wanted to go public with?  I then thought back to that 17 year old girl who never thought this could happen to her, and realized this wasn’t for me; it was for the teens that go through domestic violence.

I want you to know this is not your fault; no one deserves to be emotionally, physically, sexually, or mentally abused. Nothing you are doing is provoking this, so please if this sounds like something you or your teen is going through, get help. There are great avenues for domestic violence survivors and most communities in the United States, have several support groups and programs.

Here is my story:

I was in high school, in fact I can still remember walking into my communications class and seeing him. He was smiling at me, like he didn’t have a care in the world. We started out as friends, and if you had tried to warn me about what he’d become like when we dated, I wouldn’t have believed you. He asked me to go to Prom with him, and since he was a senior and I was junior I felt very special to have been asked. It was after Prom we started dating, you know typical high school things, going to the movies, grabbing ice cream, hanging out with friends but I started to notice that every guy who talked to me would get an earful. He would never yell at me in front of anyone (see we had just started dating) but was slowly trying to convince me that every guy friend wanted to date me, that every guy had bad intentions for me, and that I didn’t need any guy in my life but him. It took a while for it to become full on abuse, but after it did, I ended up with a broken arm, but yet and still I stayed. I also ended up running away with him and staying away from home for years. I felt too afraid to ask for help, I felt too afraid to tell anyone, and if someone had not come forward after years and told my parents; I might still be in that situation.

I want to make sure to point out some things, I’ve kept my story shorten for this reason; the truth is none of this was my fault but it could have been prevented. I want you as adults to know you have to watch for this, not every teenager is going to come to you and tell you they are being abused, but there are almost always signs of abuse. I stopped dressing up and wearing makeup my senior year, I stopped getting my hair cut or dyed, and I stopped acting like I cared about myself. I gained a massive amount of weight. Those were things my parents could have taken warning of, but I will admit to hiding it very well, so if this does happen to your child do not feel at fault for missing these signs. When you are a teenage domestic violence victim you are still too young to realize it’s not your fault, and that it won’t get better. Remember, at lot of teenagers live in “la-la land” and their abusers know this, and use it to their advantage.

I also want those adults around children and teens to watch for these abusive signs as well, because there were many school teachers, administrators, and even the principal who knew this was happening but did not contact my parents. For example, every day of my senior year my abuser came to eat lunch with me, every day he walked by a school administrator or teacher, and every day they let this happen. Now, maybe you could say “there are so many children maybe they didn’t realize it was him,” but I can say he was an “Office Helper” the year before so he was well-known in my school. In fact many teachers and school administrators would speak to him frequently, knowing he was looking for me, he was even told once that I was not in school that period, and I found him waiting for me in my parking space when I returned to school. In my opinion, he should not have even been allowed to walk freely on school property. If you are an adult and have this type of interaction with teenagers, learn the signs, and please contact the parents and express your concerns, it might save a teenager.

My friends knew about this activity as well, and of course they were teenagers also so I put no responsibility on them, they were “being loyal” rather than being “adult” about this situation. A few of them did tell their parents, who did not tell my parents until I had ran away with my abuser, therefore not helping my parents stop the abuse by hiding it. “It was none of my business,” was a frequent response when my parents asked why they didn’t tell them, well I’m here to tell you to make it your business. Remember, this is a child, making child-thought driven decisions. Know that you can save a life, change a life, and if you don’t say anything you are going to shape a life as well!

We are all responsible for helping to stop teen domestic violence, don’t feel like it’s not your place to get involved. I’m speaking from someone who was in that situation from 17 years old until I was 22 years old, my life was changed, my college education ruined, and my life altered forever. It’s taken many years to get over what I went through, and I’m still in the process of it, and might always be. I often wonder if someone had reached out and talked to me about this, if it would have helped changed the outcome of my story. I’m lucky to get out alive, I do know that. Teen domestic violence doesn’t get better when the abuser “grows up” it tends to get worse; most of these abusers have their own issues that are projected on to their victim. Just know if you are in that situation, you can reach out; there are people who will help you, and if you witness this situation step in and help.

Thank you for listening to my story! I hope that it won’t be anyone else’s!
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