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The warning signs of abuse in a teen dating relationship aren't hard to spot in this high tech age that we live in but they are important for everyone to know.
A free presentation on abuse in teen dating relationships was held at Bingham Memorial Hospital Monday with attorney Fred Zundel of Idaho Legal Aid Services in Pocatello and Dixie Chapman, executive director of Bingham Crisis Center the hosts/
"The key is to catch the dynamic of domestic abuse early and rectify it," Zundel said. "We need to stop the abuse in early ages before a guy has spent 10 to 15 years pounding on a woman."
Zundel said that 1 out of every 10 high school students has experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse in a dating relationship.
"Domestic violence refuses dignity," Zundel said. "It is a failure to respect...a failure to love."
According to Zundel, some of the key warning signs of abuse to watch for when a teen is in a dating relationship include:
-More than a 3-year age difference in middle, junior or high school relationships.
-Has to be with boyfriend/girlfriend all the time; isolates them and keeps them away from other friends and family members.
-Daughter/son cries a lot about the relationship; low self esteem.
-Declining grades and decrease in activities with other friends or family members.
-An early declaration of 'love.' This can be an early attempt to possess and manipulate.
-One acts extremely jealous, possessive or controlling and makes all the decisions about the relationship.
-Anger and a refusal to accept when the relationship is over.
"Surprisingly most teens believe that 'jealousy' is normal and healthy in a relationship," Chapman said. "They need to learn that 'jealousy' is not a good thing."
In this day, technology plays a huge part in teen domestic abuse. There are some warning signs that can 'red-flag' an unhealthy relationship when it comes to technology usage:
-Substantial increase in the amount of time spent talking on phone, texting or on social networking sites.
-Taking risks by using cell phones at inappropriate time..(class, work, church etc)
-Sleeping with cell phone
-Anger or irrational reaction when they can't use phone or get on the Internet.
Cell phones and social networking are often used for harassment or sending threatening or inappropriate pictures and/or messages.
While 95 percent of the violators in teen-dating relationships are male-initiated, Chapman said young girls can be just as bad.
"Teenage girls can be some hardcore stalkers," Chapman said. "They will call and text...call and text...call and text."
What does a parent or caregiver do when they suspect their teen may be in an unhealthy relationship?
Zundel and Chapman both agree that good communication is key. Listen to your children and communicate.
"Don't explode with anger if your kid tells you something is going on; don't do something embarrassing - like yell 'I'm going to get my gun...!' " Zundel said.
"Be gentle, kind and patient and affirm to your child that they are loved."
If a teen does not feel comfortable talking to a parent or caregiver let them know it is O.K. to talk to another trusted individual like a teacher, counselor, coach, clergy member or to go straight to the police. Any professional person who knows of any abuse to a minor is required by law to report it to law enforcement or Health and Welfare within 24 hours. Zundel said only religious clergy are exempt from reporting child abuse when a victim or abuser comes to them directly.
Zundel said if you discover that it is your teen who is the 'abuser' - affirm that they are loved but that they must get help. Stress that there are strong legal and 'non-legal' consequences for their actions.
"Boys often learn from their dads..if they see their dad treating women badly...and girls learn from their moms...if they see their moms taking it," Zundel explained. "They can learn a lack of credibility on either end."
There are plenty of resources available if anyone needs helps or more information about teen domestic abuse. Thanks to 'Cassie's Law', a law enacted in Idaho in 2000, (stemming from an incident in Soda Springs after a teenage girl was killed in a car accident by her batterer) minors can now apply for a protective order on their own.
For more information about Teen Dating Abuse go to www.lovewhatreal.com or call the Center For Healthy Teen Relationships at 208-384-0419 or 888-293-6118. If you are in an abusive situation now there is a National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline available 24/7 at 1-888-293-6118.