Thursday, July 14, 2011

Safe Dates with Kecia Burcham

Did you know that approximately one in every eight women will be raped in her lifetime?  that the majority of those rapes that are reported are committed by acquaintances, friends or dates?  most often teenagers?  that one out of four girls and one out of every six boys are sexually assaulted before they reach adulthood?
Do these statistics alarm you?*
Although I am well aware of the tragic incidences of domestic violence among our general population and our youth, I was still surprised at those numbers.
Parents, be aware of all the things that influence young people to accept mistreatment and why so many of the behaviors do not constitute abuse in their eyes. Young people are flooded with barely regulated media that in many cases condones verbal, physical and sexual violence towards both females and males. (music lyrics, reality shows, movies internet, etc.) Adolescents frequently get the wrong idea about relationships and what is appropriate through the media’s role models. 
Misunderstandings also occur at home. When a child grows up witnessing violence in the home, he or she does not know anything else. Many acts of violence are misinterpreted as love. Extreme jealousy, possessiveness, isolation as well as stalking and having to account for every moment of a partner’s time are all examples of dating abuse which usually lead to physical violence. Students need to learn early that these are not signs of love, they are signs of an abuser. Often when an adolescent tries to leave an abusive relationship, the abuser threatens, cries, or says he/she will commit suicide. This can be confusing and frightening for a young person who is just starting to date.
When the victim gets upset or is assaulted, the abuser is always full of tears and sorrys, and the honeymoon begins. The abuser will often apologize, bring gifts, do special things, make promises, and things will be quite rosy for a time. Sometimes the abuser will elude to the idea that it was all the victim’s fault – that the victim somehow “made” the perpetrator act that way. “If you hadn’t made me so mad……” The victim often buys in because when it is good, it is very, very good. It is also usually masked with talk of this “great love” the abuser has for the victim.  Then the abuse begins again, and so the cycle continues
Teach your children the warning signs of a potential abuser; guilt trips, excessive communication, making your child change his or her behaviors to suit the abuser, stopping certain activities or becoming isolated from friends, extremely differing gender expectations. These are all signs to look out for. These behaviors are usually visible prior to physical abuse and or sexual assault.
The most important thing is to recognize abuse for what it is and not to confuse it with love. Love isn’t supposed to hurt or leave bruises on your body or your heart. If you or a friend or family member need help with this issue, or you’d like to learn more, visit:
*Research funded by CDC - complete study can be found in the American Journal of Public Health October, 2000, Vol. 90, No. 10
*Youth Risk Behavior Survey
*National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health – American Journal of Public Health, October 2001, Vol. 91, No. 10
*Safe Dates curriculum – Hazelden

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