Community services group offers help for teens, families facing abuse issues

Dating abuse can take many forms and may seem innocent at first, according to Catholic Charities Community Services. (Submitted photo illustration)

One in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of abuse from a dating partner. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or verbal. With advances in technology, there are new forms of abuse to watch out for in teenagers.

Signs of Dating Abuse

Abuse can take many forms and may seem innocent at first. The abuser may keep tabs through constant texting or apps that allow tracking through GPS. Abusers become angry if they are unable to reach their victim.

Disrespect may be one of the first signs of abuse.

Rebecca Sauer, counselor at Catholic Charities, said: “Put downs, name calling or saying bad things about someone may be a sign of abuse.”

Victims begin to believe the put downs and feel bad about themselves. This in turn can lead victims to believe the abuse is their fault.

The abuser may control the way the victim dresses, acts and where they go. Victims often become isolated from their friends.

Both Genders are Capable of Abuse

Males and females can both be abusers. “When someone is calling all of the time demanding to know where you are and what you are doing, it moves into dangerous territory,” said Sheryl Christianson, senior programs manager of My Sisters’ Place, a Catholic Charities domestic abuse shelter. “If it’s a girl, we think no big deal, but if it’s the guy, we think stalker. We have to allow society to treat them equally.”

Dating Abuse Checklist for Parents

Any major changes in your teenager’s behavior or personality are signs that abuse may be happening and should be taken seriously. If you notice any of the following behaviors, look into it further:

• Unexplained marks or bruises.

• Excessive emails or texting or anxiety over missing calls or messages.

• Changes in interest and activities, including time with family.

• Old friends being replaced with a new set of friends (that came with a new relationship).

• Your teenager’s boyfriend/girlfriend appears overly jealous, possessive or controlling.

• Dramatic changes in clothing and hair choices.

If you suspect your teenager is in an abusive relationship, call our counseling program. Our counselors can assist you in talking to your teen and helping them heal from the abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence in a relationship, contact us to get help today. We are available 24 hours a day at 480-821-1024.

Editor’s note: This story was provided by Catholic Charities, which offers care for the vulnerable of all faiths in central and northern Arizona. For more, www.catholiccharitiesaz.org.

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