For the past couple of weeks I’ve been getting this nudge to write about what is currently being termed “teenage date abuse.” But I think that it is misleading to suggest that one has to be in any kind of “dating” relationship to become victimized by abusive behaviors. So many of the teenagers today think “dating” is something they don’t do. They “hang out” or “go with.” So when an adult says “dating” often the teen will “tune out” and deny anything further about the conversation.
(I’m going to write this post with targeting the male as the abusive threat; however, there have been times that it is the female who is the abusive threat. That will be for another post.)
Some young ladies never even get to have an actual date with the young man. The abuse starts at the very beginning of the contact. This is what I mean. Young man and young woman share eye contact, a raised eyebrow, or slight smile, etc. Some message that says “I’m interested.” From that moment on, the abusive grooming begins and grows.
So here I go–into the formatted pattern of a typical abusive relationship (I’ve focused on teen’s, but his goes for all ages). Here’s the grooming process that I’ve experienced through the many girls I have worked with:
- Upon initial meeting the young man can be either somewhat shy or somewhat forward. But whatever the style of presentation, the young man is “CHARMING.”
- The CHARM part continues with thoughtful little gifts, from texted poetry to romantic “I saw this rock and I thought of you;” to “You said you liked chocolate;” “Girls always like stuffed animals.” You get the picture. Attentive, caring and CHARMING.
- Typically the young lady will be pleased of the attention and yet be a little unsure as to where the “relationship” is going. The CHARM will continue for quite sometime, perhaps throughout the young man’s ability to date others, but still CHARMING the “hard-to-get” one.
- Finally, after the young lady decides that she would really like to increase the potential for a relationship and says “yes,” the young man goes once more into CHARM. THis time there is a bit of a change. The CHARM also includes a sense of “announcement to others that the young man has made a conquest of the young lady. This can take the form of physically touching in public, so others see the arm around the shoulders, the kiss, the sense of being “a couple.” (CHARM, by the way, is in the eye of the beholder. What a teenage girl may see as CHARMING, her mother may see as dirty, belligerent, reckless, a fad, or —-CHARMING, also).
- After the young lady capitulates to seeing the young man as someone “special,” the young man usually stops the CHARM. All of it. No more cute messages, no more thoughtful looks, no more trying to anticipate her needs.
- It now becomes all about the young man. What the young lady can do to make him feel better. Help him. His biggest need? That she UNDERSTAND him. This means that she needs to do what he wants her to do. This usually starts out small and builds. It can happen slowly or quickly, depending upon how willing the young lady is to compromise her values to meet his needs. Generally the young man will let the young lady know that if she really cares about him, she won’t get mad when he flirts with other girls. He can’t help it. So he tells her to understand and not being difficult.
- Most young ladies will agree to UNDERSTAND and be patient. The young lady won’t like it, but heck, the young man “belongs to her,” so she is willing to put up with his “needs.”
- As soon as the young lady loses her own self-respect, the young man begins to quickly test her. From verbally degrading her to actually physical abuse, the young man begins an attack on the young girl’s sense of self. He prescribes what she should wear, who she can talk to, what activities she can be in–all designed to give him maximum power over the young lady, while the young lady continues to ENDURE the degradation. If she does not do what he asks, or he becomes paranoid and doesn’t believe her, he justifies his abusive actions with his need to be totally in control of her life. Yelling, hitting, raping, threatening death can all be a part of the abusive journey.
- Young ladies come from all walks of life. We often hear that the poor young lady is more at risk than the middle class or wealthy. I believe that the poor young lady with few to no resources and without family stability is at risk, but I have also worked with other girls who suffered the same type of abuse, which no one could understand how “it happened.”
- It is very difficult for young ladies to extricate themselves from these abasing relationships. I believe that this is because by the time adults (parents, included) know what is going on, the girl has lost her own ego ability to know that she has VALUE outside of this terrible relationship. Unfortunately these girls often go back to the same young man for more beatings. They often have to watch as the young man pursues and engages in relationships with other young ladies.
- If you or someone you know is engaged in any of this type of scenario, please tell an adult you can trust what is going on. Please know that the young lady is really struggling with her own identity and she will need a lot of caring people to help her free herself of the young man. An INTERVENTION is needed, with both young man and young woman, with strong resources attending. The young man must be confronted with his behavior and how wrong it is. He will deny this, but it must be made public and that the young man knows the young lady is being cared for by many eyes.
- Young ladies can DIE from these relationships. They almost always emotionally DIE from these relationships, having to fight back to see how they can actually be: healthy. They can also physically DIE when he kicks her one too many times, or throws her out of the car or . . . you get the awful picture.
Notice: CHARM leads to UNDERSTANDING leads to ENDURING leads to VALUES leads to INTERVENTION which can lead to DIE, if help is not present in a consistent manner from many sources.
Abusers learn to victimize, usually because they were victimized. They can either see themselves as victims or as the one with the power. Typically, most people choose to believe that they can exert power over others, even when they are re-victimized in the process. (I know, it sounds strange, but it is very true.)
Both the young man and the young women need OUR help. They need it together during the INTERVENTION and separately to address their “issues.” Families need to be included. Medication does not need to be prescribed. These are basic relationship beliefs that need to be explored and learned. And each person held accountable for their actions.
Let me know your thoughts. Be gentle with yourself.