Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

This is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. I understand the word “date” is slowly disappearing from teens vocabulary. The “dating” that I participated in ages ago has developed into a more joint responsibility for cost and opened up to group activities. I like that. So let’s call it Teen Relationship Violence Awareness Month.  (Which could also include bullying anyone, partner or not.) 
This is what I’d like our teens to know:
You are the only you on this planet. Only you have the combination of gifts and talents for your mission in life. Your abilities won’t be identical to anyone else's. But that’s okay. You are here because you are supposed to be here -- at this time -- right now. You didn’t ask for it. You didn’t earn it. It was given to you as an opportunity. You have the right to claim and fill your space on this planet.
As you journey through life, you will discover your gifts and talents, honing them by the good and bad experiences you encounter. Your gifts can be used for good or evil. I hope you chose good, even if you’ve been wounded along the way. It’s always a choice to be kind or unkind- your choice. Sometimes it takes more strength of character to be kind. However, this doesn’t mean that you don’t protect and take care of yourself. There is a fine line between caring for others and becoming a people pleaser who gives to others at the expense of themselves. Don’t become a people pleaser. You have the right to decide who is a part of your life and how they should treat you.
You deserve to be, treated with respect by the people in your life. Others deserve the same from you. There are many people out there that will treat you right. You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, put up with anyone who isn’t respectful - no matter how much you believe you love them and they profess to love you. Watch their actions for the truth about how they feel toward you. If they are constantly criticizing you, berating you, humiliating you, they don’t love you. You will never “love someone enough” to make them love you. Not everyone will like you. Don’t take it personally, it’s not about you, it’s about them. 
Helping someone else, should never hurt you. One big hook a controlling partner uses to hold on to his partner is to convince her that he really wants to and will change but he needs her help. People who want to change, do. They take responsibility and do the work. They put all the effort into changing. If it requires help, they go to a professional trained to guide them, not expect their partner to heal them. 
You cannot change anyone else. You can only change yourself. Often, the best way to help someone is to not buy into their bad behavior, just walk away. There are others who will love and respect you and you can love again- this is not the only person in the world for you. Yes, it hurts to break up. That hurt only lasts a short time. Staying in an abusive relationship hurts 7/24/365. 
Healthy relationships consist of two people who are genuinely concerned for the other but also maintain their own life. That means each gets to discover and pursue their own passion in life. Take their own journey. Define who they are. Develop their own life space. These life spaces can overlap into a shared space (a relationship.) The guy’s journey doesn’t require the girl to give up her journey in order to be loved. Neither should her life space swallow up or negate his. Also, he doesn’t terrorize his partner, paralyzing and inhibiting her from becoming who she was meant to be. Someone who loves you will be your biggest cheerleader, supporting you during your journey of discovery. And you will reciprocate. 
During the teen years, girls and guys think differently. There is nothing wrong with ether way of thinking, it’s just the way we’re wired. Girls are apt to be ready to form a committed relationship before guys are. While she’s thinking we’ll be together forever and ever.  He may also think the same thing. However, her forever and ever is defined as until death do us part. His is often for the next six months. You need to know where your partner is coming from. In healthy relationships partners can talk about issues such as this and respect each other perspective.
Here are some red flags that indicate you are in an unhealthy relationship. Your partner:
  1. Doesn’t take “no” for an answer.
  2.   Moves too fast and is rushing you into exclusivity, sex. 
  3.   Is jealous and limits your circle of friends and who you can talk to.
  4.   Monopolizes your time.
  5.   Shows up unexpectedly when you are out with friends.
  6.   Calls or texts many times throughout the day and night.
  7.   Gets angry if you don’t immediately answer the text or call.
  8.   Has a sense of entitlement - believes one gender is “better” or deserves better treatment than the other.
  9.   Is closed minded about his beliefs and refuses to listen to or consider your opinion.
Finally, if you or a friend need help, please call the National Teen Dating Abuse hotline at: 866.331.9474. 
Here are some websites for teens:
Click on the “Comments” link below and share what you want teens to know.


  1. Hi Joanna. Someone I'm close with has been in an abusive relationship for over 5 years. I bought your book in hopes of giving it to her, but don't know if I can. Would it be wrong to anonymously send it to her in the mail? What do you think of that as a survivor? I care and worry about her and I want to help but don't know what to do. Everyone is worried about her and how her boyfriend treats her.

  2. PS: thank you! Hoping to get a reply. I have gone through your book and everything I read was indicative of their relationship and made me realize even more what I had already thought and knew. Thank you for writing such a wonderful book that has helped so many women and men--I just hope it can help my friend as well. Thanks again

  3. If she is living with her abuser, I would not recommend you send it to her. I suggest you be more direct. Take her aside and tell her you care about her. You see what is happening and feel that she is not being treated the way she deserves. Do your best not to slam her boyfriend, that will only make her defend him and tune you out. Tell her you care about her. Tell her what is happening in her relationship is not her fault. Tell her what is right about her, what you appreciate. He's spent a lot of time telling her what is wrong with her. Tell her if she wants help, you know where she can get it. Find out where the women's shelter is in your area and have the phone number handy. You can also call the shelter for suggestions on how to help your friend. If she's open to the book, you may have to keep it at your house. If her partner sees it, it could cause a problem for her. Thank you for you kind words about But He'll Change. Also, thanks for being such a caring friend. Victims of abuse need someone like you. Even is she doesn't respond to your offers to help, you have at least planted the first seed that help is available. Bless you.

  4. Thanks for responding & your input. Although, she doesn't live with her abuser so would you still recommend me talking to her and having it be more personal rather than her wondering who sent it? I don't want to ruin our friendship.

  5. I'm not a therapist, but I have always believed that honesty is best. Talk to her in a loving, concerned way. Tell her you treasure your friendship with her and what ever she decides, you will accept. Express your concern and don't say anything mean about her boyfriend other than you are concerned about the way he treats her. Focus on her, how terrific she is and that you will be there if she needs help. Then see how she responds to the book. You may have to hold on to it for a while. It may take some time until she faces what is going on in her life.