Submitted by Tara Gellasch, MD, Associate Chief, Obstetrics/Gynecology Newark-Wayne Community Hospital
My teenage daughter recently confided in me that her friend’s boyfriend slapped her when they got into an argument. The parents are already aware of the situation and are taking step to make sure this relationship is over. I want my daughter to avoid ever being involved in a relationship like this. How do I talk to her about this topic?
It is wonderful that your daughter feels comfortable talking to you about such a sensitive issue. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. In the US, a woman is beaten every nine seconds and three women every day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. These are truly alarming statistics that cross all socioeconomic levels.
While we need to reach out to victims and perpetrators to break the cycle of violence, we also need to teach our children how to avoid these destructive relationships. One in five teenage girls has been threatened with violence or has threatened self-harm when trying to breakup with a boyfriend. Survivors of domestic violence often report that at the beginning of the relationship, there were little warning signs that their partners tried to cover up, or explain away, but the excuses didn’t make sense.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (http://nnedv.org) has posted on their website some of the red flags of abuse. Initially, an abuser may act “too good to be true” which often makes it easy for the couple to rush into the relationship. This may be followed by the abuser saying one thing and then doing another. Ultimately, behaviors may include outbursts of rage and a lack of taking responsibility for bad behaviors (blaming others). Typical behaviors include excessive jealously and accusing the partner of affairs, demanding their partner stops spending time with family and friends and stops participating in hobbies. Abusers may be highly critical of their partner describing them as stupid, fat and claiming that no one else could love him or her. Lastly, abusers frequently have a history of battering past partners.
It is important to speak to your daughter about these warning signs and to encourage her to take any new relationship slowly. Be a good role model for all of your children. Many victims of abuse, as well as abusers, have grown up in families where domestic violence occurred. Additionally, it is critical that our daughters grow up with a strong sense of self-worth. While women of all education and socioeconomic levels can become victims of domestic violence, women who believe they deserve the abuse may struggle more to act upon the warning signs. Remind your daughter each day that she is loved and she is worthy of that love.
Here in Wayne County, victims of abuse may seek assistance through the Victim Resource Center of the Finger Lakes. They have two emergency hotline phone numbers: 1-866-343-8808 or 1-800-456-1172. You can also contact them at their non-emergency number at 315-331-1171 or review a list of their programs and services online at www.vrcfl.org.
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