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Student and experts offer stories and advice for those in abusive dating relationships.

Mallory Fee, Daisy Smith, and Delaney Tarpley

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Junior Izzy Bates. Photo by Arianna Gonzalez.

   “I have always been a romantic, so when I met a girl and she asked me out I said yes in a moment,” junior Izzie Bates said. “Shortly after we started dating she started getting very creepy and hurtful, she made me feel like I was lucky to be with her because the relationship between us was the best and only relationship I’d ever be in. She told me she was making out with my picture and wanted to make out with me in person, which I was not comfortable with, then it escalated to more harassment I told her I didn’t want.”

   Dangerous relationships don’t just happen to adults. They start with teens. While many teens are spending this February fantasizing about a perfect Valentine’s day romance, it’s important they learn the warning signs of an abusive relationship and what to do if they find themselves involved in one.

   “In an unhealthy relationship the partners do not treat each other as equals. The relationship may become dangerous when one partner tends to control the other with emotional, verbal or physical abuse,” Social Worker Cathy Mendez said.

   When a person is in a dangerous relationship, sometimes they don’t realize it. They don’t see the red flags or warning signs people around them see.

   “Signs of a dangerous relationship include extreme jealousy, name calling or putting the other down, pressure to do things you don’t want to do, threatening to hurt self or others if they leave, being grabbed, pushed, hit or physically hurt in any way, controlling everything in the relationship,” Mendez said. “Also, if your family and friends do not like or approve of the relationship this may be a reason to examine if it is healthy.”

   Both types of abuse, physical and emotional, can be just as damaging to a person’s health. It’s important the person puts his or her health first in that situation.

Mental Abuse

   Damage from abusive relationships isn’t always visible.

   Depression can be a result of an abusive relationship. Sometimes, the depression from these results in something much worse.

“Talk to someone you trust and figure out a safe way to get out of an abusive relationship. Once you’re out make sure that you feel safe and that you understand that it’s not your fault.” senior Tara Rogers said. Photo by Chrystian Noble.

   According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, researchers found that more than 50 percent of youth who had reported dating violence also reported attempting suicide compared to 5.4 percent of non-abused boys and 12.5 percent of non-abused girls.

   “They might start thinking they’re against their partner’s emotional values or beliefs and so they might start getting depressed or frightened,” Synergy Executive Director Robin Winner said. “They’ll feel itchy or abandoned because of all of the expectations that are unfair and they might be told they can’t tell anyone about how they’re feeling so it’s kind of a double-whammy.”

   Synergy’s goal is to create a better life for individuals who find themselves going through hard times that can’t quite be solved by themselves. They offer many different shelters ranging from Domestic Violence to a children’s shelter.

   Junior Sabrina Brooke struggled with emotional abuse.

   “They would play mind games with me and do things that were completely their fault but then switch it around and pretend that it was my fault,” Brooke said. “I was constantly apologizing to them even though I shouldn’t have had to.”

   Abusive relationship stories are shared mainly by women, but that does not mean this occurs only to women.

   “There are cases of physical abuse with men as well, and if someone believes it doesn’t happen to men, then I believe they’re part of the problem,” an anonymous student said.

   Winner mentioned that some abusers excuse their actions because of personal issues.

   “Sometimes having control over someone else, especially their significant other, can help the person feel like they’re in control of something in their life,” Winner said.

Physical Abuse

   Does mother know best on this one? According to loveisrespect.org, more than 80 percent of parents believe dating violence among teens is a non-issue or admit they are unsure if it is an issue or not. Around 1.5 million high school students admit to being intentionally hit or physically harmed in the last year by someone they are romantically involved with, but that’s not including the two-thirds of victims who never confide in anyone about the abuse in the first place.

   Prevention Specialist at the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault (MOCSA) Becca Anderson thinks she knows of a reason why victims are afraid to tell someone about abuse.

   “Abusers are really good at convincing people that everything happening in that relationship is their fault,” Anderson said. “Some examples would be the perpetrator telling the victim the only reason they hit them was because they made them mad, or telling them the only reason they check in all the time is because the victim is making them jealous. Reaching out and getting support is important.”

   Under the umbrella of physical abuse is sexual assault, something one in four girls and one in six boys experience before the time they’re 18 according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

   “Sexual assault is any sexual activity including intercourse without consent,” Anderson said. “Consent is freely given. There’s no force, fear or coercion involved and both people are making the decision on their own. They are free to change their mind at any time and they aren’t doing it out of obligation. It’s a ‘yes’ they’re giving both verbally and non-verbally.”

“A healthy relationship is where both people respect each other and never try to pressure each other.” senior Megan Jacobus said. Photo by Chrystian Noble

   With movements such as “Time’s Up,” started by victims of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood and “#MeToo” started on social media with people sharing personal stories of sexual violence, the conversation has become more open. Because of this, many at support agencies have become more hopeful. Anderson said the Access Hollywood tape release in October 2016, where President Donald Trump talked about his treatment of women, and more recently, Dr. Christine Ford’s testimony against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, both caused the number of calls MOCSA received on its hotline to raise significantly.

   “I know the culture is changing and making perpetrators more uncomfortable when they do hurt others, especially when these conversations are being had so openly,” Anderson said. “Just a shift in the conversation makes me hopeful because perpetrators only are able to get away with hurting people when they aren’t being held accountable.”


   Brooke’s advice to everyone going through a dangerous relationship is: “Talk to a friend, parent or a counselor and be sure that people know you’re having to go through this relationship. You shouldn’t have someone else control you. A key thing to know is there is help out there. Talk to someone you feel like you can trust and tell them what’s going on.”

   Junior Isaac Letsch agrees but emphasizes the importance of getting out of the relationship.

   “Talk to friends or family, someone you trust who has your best interests at heart and ask them for advice,” Letch said. “But always try and leave the relationship as fast you can.”

   In all situations of abuse, MOCSA encourages bystanders to get help for their friends while they are trying to get out of an abusive relationship.

   “We focus on what someone’s friends can do to support them in leaving. We always say, ‘listen, believe, support, refer,’” Anderson said. “It’s a loving action to give someone resources that can help them. There is no perfect thing to say, but you can be there for them and remind them it wasn’t their fault.”

Photo by Jacob Jimenez

   In the end, if a person is able to recognize the red flags and has an exceptional support system who stands by them, they might be able to make it through a dangerous relationship. Something to take away is that no matter the extent to the abuse, it’s important to talk to those you trust and lean on them for support.

   “I am very grateful that I was talking with my friends while the most hurtful harassment was going on, everything she did was vocal, nothing physical happened between us and my friend helped me get out of the situation by breaking up with the person and blocking them quickly,” Bates said. “While I was never threatened in that situation I was made to feel like if I ended the relationship I would never find another relationship, which is very important to me in life. I don’t know where the relationship might have led if I hadn’t had my friend to help me escape.”

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What is Love