My Child Is Dating Someone Who Is Harming Them – What Should I Do?

dating abuseAs a parent, you watch over and protect your child throughout every stage of life, especially as she/he engages in relationships with friends and romantic associations that begin to develop during the teenage years. At times, these relationships can evolve quickly and intensely, and they can cause concern or provoke action from parents, as patterns of controlling behaviors are identified. Youth dating abuse is more common than you may think, happening among young people from all walks of life.

Forms of abuse in a relationship can be obvious or very subtle at times, depending on the behavior.

  • Verbal Abuse: Instances that involve name calling, humiliation of the abused partner, verbal intimidation, screaming, threatening, constantly blaming the abused partner or obsessive verbal behavior toward the abused partner?s actions
  • Emotional Abuse: Instances of emotional manipulation such as isolation from friends and family, making the abused partner feel guilty, excessive possessiveness, jealousy, monitoring phone calls or emails or any other communication
  • Physical Abuse: Instances that involve bullying, forcing an abused partner to participate in unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, unlawful actions, hitting, beating, stalking, unreasonable physical expectations toward the abused partner, threats of physical violence, throwing objects, restraining the abused partner, destruction of partner?s property, hitting, pushing, grabbing, choking, intimidation using weapons
  • Sexual Abuse: Instances of sexual assault, rape, date rape, using date rape drugs, initiating sexual rumors, sexual jokes or humiliation, sabotaging birth control, refusing to use protection during sex

Warning Signs of Teen Dating Abuse

Learning to identify patterns in behavior that include control over another person in a dating relationship can lead to early detection of dating abuse. Look for psychological, emotional and verbal abuse and keep an eye out for these warning signs:

  • The abuser isolating your teen from family or friends
  • A sudden change in your teen?s emotions
  • Excessive text messaging or phone calls
  • Extreme jealousy when your teen talks to other people
  • Coaching your teen on what to wear or how to act
  • Your teen making continual excuses for their abuser?s behavior

If you have identified with several items from this list, there are things you can effectively do to help your child cope with an abusive partner.

Take Charge of the Situation

First of all, be the person to whom your child looks to for guidance by offering mature advice. Guide your conversations with the understanding t hat the child may be afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed about the situations they confide in to you. To a certain extent, a teen could also erroneously believe that the abuse is his/her fault, that you will be disappointed in them, or that you may even blame them for the tumultuous relationship. Because they have little experience with healthy dating experiences, teens may not recognize the relationship as an abusive one.

Offer Your Help

Listen as your child talks to you. Believe them without judging them. Do not interrupt. Use your opportunity to talk to your child and calmly describe,as clearly as possible, what you are seeing with regard to the relationship. Convey that you understand they are in a very frightening situation, and that you care about their safety. Make it clear you are concerned for their well-being, and keep communication ongoing,letting your teen know they can reach out to you at any time.

When It Is Time to Seek Help

If you know your child is in an abusive relationship, it is wise to arm yourself with the knowledge of what legal steps you can take to keep your child safe from an abusive partner. If date rape is suspected, or the use of date rape drugs have been used, get immediate medical attention for your teen and consult with your attorney as soon as possible. For information about date rape drugs and sexual assault from the Illinois Attorney General, visit Advocating for Women.

If your teen seeks protection from their boyfriend or girlfriend, an EmergencyOrder of Protection can be obtained on the same day you file a petition requesting relief. The order will provide protection for your teen against someone who has committed acts of violence, and the Order can actually prevent the abuser from attending school while in effect, thus keeping your child safe while away from home as well. Sexual abuse, physical force, stalking, harassment, threats and/or any other behavior that can be identified as an act of ?abuse? can be reported to your attorney and local law enforcement. The order of protection will be issued by the Court and outline how and if an abuser can interact with your teen. Click Orders of Protection for more information for the State of Illinois.

The following helpful links and information are provided by the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and can be found here: http://www.opdv.ny.gov/whatisdv/tdvinfoparent.html

Also, see below for more guides as you seek more information for your teen.


Helplines and Online Chats: 24 Hours / 7 Days per Week:

  • National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 1.866.331.9474 TTD/TTY-1.866.331.8453
  • Love is Respect Peer Advocates: 1.866.331.9474 or Text ?loveis? to 22522
  • Love is Respect ? Online Chat

When it comes to any type of abuse in a relationship, it is important to actively look for support and education about your legal options to protect yourself and your family. Arm yourself with the knowledge that you need to make the best decision for your teenager. One of the best resources you can have is a lawyer who is experienced with teen dating abuse cases. The attorneys with Sherer Law Offices can provide expert guidance as they steer you toward the most appropriate legal option for your teen?s situation. Don?t hesitate to call us.

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