Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/washington/news.aspx?id=134161
Story Retrieval Date: 5/21/2013 12:10:26 AM CST
WASHINGTON - When the Rihanna and Chris Brown scandal made headlines, it brought to light how common abusive relationships can be, especially for young people. Now some are saying the economy is playing a role in the drama.
A new poll by the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Liz Claiborne Inc., shows how nearly one in three teens report threats of violence or sexual or physical abuse. And for the first time it appears that the poor economy has raised the levels of teen dating abuse.
Nearly half of teens surveyed, whose families have experienced financial troubles, say that they have witnessed their parents abusing each other. This behavior ultimately trickles down into the personal lives of the children.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York is an advocate of better education for parents. She also wants schools to teach teens the warning signs of abuse and how to get help.
"There's a widespread lack of parental awareness and a majority of parents are not talking to their children about the most serious aspects of dating abuse," Maloney said.
Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler has started the RESPECT! campaign which works to promote healthy relationships and stop violence through positive role modeling.
"This poll shows a disconnect between what some parents think is happening with their teenage children and what teens say they are experiencing," said Soler. "Not enough parents recognize behaviors that may be warning signs of abuse."
One parent, Bill Mitchell of Maryland, recognized the warning signs but it was too late. His daughter died July 26, 2008 just 30 minutes before he sent her an e-mail saying she should put some space between her and her boyfriend.
"She didn’t know that dating violence can be more than just hitting and slapping or abusive language like most of us would think, maybe. It can be excessive controlling behavior - a classic warning sign of potential violence ahead," Michell said.
Monique Betty was fortunate. She escaped her abusive relationship but not before she had endured four years of emotional and physical abuse and degradation. Betty said at one point her mind was so warped that she was even protecting him from criticism from her family and friends.
While she blames her ex-boyfriend for the manipulation, she does admit that her mild manner and caring nature played a part in the abuse.
"You know it’s almost like the women who end up in these relationships are the most nice, most caring, sensitive women that think they can help someone and change them," said Betty.
Dr. Ruth Zitner, a psychologist, agreed that being too caring does aid the cycle of abuse.
"It's the kids on the phone all the time with that boyfriend or girlfriend feeling like they have to take care of that other person’s self esteem, sacrificing their own self esteem for the other person,” Zitner said.
There are classic warning signs for abuse so now it's up to the teens and parents and lawmakers who are working to make sure there is enough education to stop this growing trend.