For many parents, the biggest fear when it comes to their daughters and dating is sex and unwanted pregnancies. What many don’t realize is that young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience more intimate partner violence than anyone else. And while many parents are sending the message loud and clear about sex, when it comes to violence, parents are not asking and kids definitely are not telling. The conversation is uncomfortable, but it’s absolutely necessary.
So how do you know if that friendly, handsome boy who comes to the door to pick up your daughter might have a violent streak? The organization “Break The Cycle” provides this list of behaviors your daughter might display if she’s in an abusive or potentially abusive relationship.
I. She apologizes for his behavior and makes excuses for him.
2. She loses interest in activities that she used to enjoy.
3. She stops seeing friends and family members and becomes more and more isolated.
4.When your daughter and her boyfriend are together, he calls her names and puts her down in front of other people.
5. He acts extremely jealous of others who pay attention to her, especially other guys.
6. He thinks or tells your daughter that you (her parents) don’t like him.
7. He controls her behavior, checking up on her constantly, calling and texting her, demanding to know who she has been with.
8. She casually mentions his violent behavior, but laughs it off as a joke.
9. You see him violently lose his temper, striking or breaking objects. 1
10. She often has unexplained injuries, or the explanations she offers don’t make sense.
You might think your daughter is too smart to let a violent boyfriend bully her. If that’s you, Leslie Morgan Steiner’s story should change your mind. She was 22 years old and a Harvard graduate who had just landed her dream job in New York City when she met the man who ultimately threatened to kill her. “My first message for you is that domestic violence happens to everyone; all races, all religions, all incomes, all education levels. It’s everywhere,” says Leslie. The problem with spotting an abusive man is that no man starts out that way at the beginning of the relationship. “We started dating and he loved everything about me,” says Leslie. “If you had told me that this smart, funny, sensitive man who adored me would one day dictate whether or not I wore makeup, how short my skirts were, where I lived, what jobs I took, who my friends were, and where I spent Christmas, I would have laughed at you. Because there was not a hint of violence or control or anger in him… at the beginning.”
As their relationship progressed, things started to change. “He first physically attacked me five days before our wedding. It was seven a.m. I still had on my nightgown. I was working on my computer trying to finish a freelance writing assignment and I got frustrated, and he used my anger as an excuse to put both his hands around my neck and squeeze so tightly I could not breathe or scream. He used the choke hold to hit my head repeatedly against the wall. Five days later, the ten bruises on my neck had just faded, and I put on my mother’s wedding dress and I married him. Despite what had happened, I was sure we were going to live happily ever after because I loved him. And he loved me
so much. And he was very, very sorry.”
Leslie eventually got out of the relationship, but not before he put a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. She detailed her years in the abusive relationship in her book “Crazy Love.”
Bottom line – we need to keep talking to our daughters about domestic violence, about their relationships, about their friends’ relationships. If you want to know more about how to start this conversation, visit www.breakthecycle.org
How to recognize the signs of domestic violence is just one of the things we teach in our high school and college-level Bulletproof Self-Defense class. To learn more about our self-defense classes, click here.