What to do if You or Your Child is in an Abusive Relationship #DVAM

This is part 2 of a 2-part series on understanding domestic violence. Click here for part 1: Prevalence and Prevention.

How will I know if my teen is in an abusive relationship and how can I help?

In one study, though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse (1).

What would you do if your son or daughter was in an abusive relationship?  How would you know if they were in one?  

Your son or daughter may be experiencing abuse if

  • you notice unexplained marks or bruises,
  • you notice that your son or daughter is depressed or anxious,
  • your child won’t go anywhere alone or act independently, spending all available free time with his girlfriend or her boyfriend,
  • your child is losing contact with family and friends and stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests,
  • your child begins to dress differently solely because their partner wants them to,
  • your child worries if they can’t text/call their partner back right away because their partner might get upset,
  • your child expresses fear about how their partner will react in a given situation, or
  • your child always feels at fault or is always blamed for anything that happens in the relationship.

If you are noticing any of these signs, contact your pediatrician for advice right away! Don’t try to handle the situation alone without professional help because your child may be ashamed of the situation, or scared for your own safety if you were to get involved. Your pediatrician should be able to help you figure out how to talk with your child about the situation as calmly and as gently as possible, or at least connect you with a professional who can help.

If I am in an abusive relationship, how can I help and protect my children?

If you are involved in an abusive relationship and you have children living with you, begin planning a safety strategy for yourself and your children. If leaving your abuser isn’t realistic right away, it is important that they know what to do to protect themselves from abuse. Teach them not to interfere in any arguments, how to get help in emergencies, and a code word for when they need to leave the house or hide. (Try these sites for more information: What Is Safety Planning?, Safety Planning With Children, and Safety Planning With Your Kids.)

Children are really great at observing things, but not at interpreting them so just because your child isn’t talking about it, doesn’t mean it’s not impacting them (2). Explaining Violence to Kids is a helpful article which discusses six points to remember when explaining violence to children that have witnessed it. 18 Ways to Support Children Who Witness Domestic Violence is another article which is helpful if you come in contact with children from DV-IVP homes or you own children have witnessed it at home.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do to protect your children from domestic violence is to get the help you need to leave. In an abusive situation, no one gets out without being affected because even if the abuser never hits the children, knowing and seeing a parent being abused can leave lasting psychological effects (3).

If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Help is out there and you CAN find support.

For more information:

Click here for more resources on talking to children and teens about domestic violence, getting help and leaving violent situations.

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1) Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc. and Family Violence Prevention Fund. Conducted by Tru Insight, (June 2009), “Teen Dating Abuse Report”.

2) First things First. Talking to your Kids about Tough Topics http://firstthings.org/videos/talking-to-your-kids-about-tough-topics/

3) 5 Facts About Children of Domestic Violence. https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/5-facts-about-children-of-domestic-violence#.WWmghI-cFYc

Images from https://socialwork.rutgers.edu/centers/center-violence-against-women-and-children/research-and-evaluation/teen-dating-violence-factsheets, http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-NnXNb0RWUZ0/VdI0s_yZT-I/AAAAAAAAMiE/pGy3l82zboQ/s1600/Signs%2Bof%2BDomestic%2BViolence.jpg, and https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-and-white-male-gender-rest-room-signage-134065/.

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