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Front Page » January 10, 2002 » Local News » Attorney general's office highlights complex abusive teen...
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Attorney general's office highlights complex abusive teen dating problem

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A 2001 study conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control revealed that one in five high school girls has been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.

Date related abuse significantly increases the victims' risk for drug abuse, eating disorders, suicide and harmful behaviors.

And although the numbers may not be as staggering, research confirms that teenage boys are not immune to dating violence.

Many adolescents involved in abusive dating relationships refuse to accept the fact that violent boyfriends or girlfriends are dangerous, points out the Utah Attorney General's Office.

To eliminate the risks of suffering irreparable physical or emotional damage, teens should end relationships at the first sign of abusive behavior.

The forms of dating violence fall under four basic categories, indicates data compiled by the attorney general's office.

Physical abuse involves actions resulting in pain, such as kicking, pushing or punching.

Emotional abuse causes loss of self-esteem in the victim, like name-calling, swearing or constantly criticism.

The psychologically abusive dating partner creates fear via threatening and attempting to isolate the victim from family as well as friends.

Dating partners subjected to unwelcome or uncomfortable acts of a sexual nature are the victims of the fourth form of abuse.

The attorney general's office has identified the behavior patterns frequently exhibited by abusive dating partners.

The patterns include:

Extreme jealousy and constantly checking up on a boyfriend or girlfriend.

An excessively controlling attitude and unrealistic expectations.

Demanding traditional gender roles in connection with the relationship.

Blaming third parties for problems or feelings.


Cruelty to animals or children.

Verbal abuse, demeaning comments and threats of violence.

Breaking or striking objects.

Exercising physical force during an argument.

And a history of battering.

When abuse initially surfaces in a relationship, the behavior or behaviors may appear relatively harmless.

But the abuse tends to become increasingly worse as time passes and staying in a relationship will not remedy the mounting problems, stresses the attorney gen-eral's office.

What starts out as a seemingly playful, but rather rough push or shove all too often turns into bruised arms, black eyes and physical injury.

No one deserves to be abused and no one can realistically hope tochange an abuser.

Teens should never assume responsibility for a dating partner's inappropriate behavior and victims of verbal or physical violence should terminate the relationships, reiterates the attorney general's office.

In addition to alerting teens to the potential dating dangers, the attorney general's office has developed a list of abuse warning signals for Carbon County parents.

Parents should be concerned when teenagers:

•Incur repeated, unexplained injuries.

•Display fear or uneasiness in connection with a boyfriend or girlfriend.

•Apologize or make excuses for a dating partner's behavior.

•Undergo major changes in appearance, behavior or attitude.

•Abandon previously valued activities or personal interests.

Examples include school, friendships, spending time with family members, hobbies and activities independent of a dating partner.

Adults should take calm, positive actions to prevent an abusive situation from exploding into a violent emergency, emphasizes the attorney general's office.

Parents should ask questions, listen to the answers, set limits, keep the channels of communication open and avoid engaging in power struggles with teens.

Understanding the dynamics of an abusive relationship, resolving the conflicts and diffusing potentially volatile situations pose complex challenges, points out the attorney general's office.

Several factors contributing to inappropriate physical or verbal dating behaviors include an intense desire for power and control, jealousy, peer pressure and gender roles, suffering from abuse during childhood, insecurity and uncontrollable anger.

Reasons prompting victims to remain in abusive dating relationships include hope, fear and love; the feeling of being trapped with no apparent way out; a lack of resources to escape; and the bond that develops between the partners.

Although teen dating partners are not typically co-habitants, the abusive relationships are similar to domestic violence situations. Several state and national agencies provide domestic violence assistance, explains the attorney general's office.

Carbon residents may contact the following toll-free telephone numbers for related information:

•Utah domestic violence info line, 1-800-897-5465, daily from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

•National domestic violence hotline, 1-800-799-7233, around the clock seven days per week.

•State rape recovery center, 1-888-421-1100, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

In the event abusive dating behaviors escalate into terrorist threats and/or criminal assaults, the attorney general's office encourages Carbon County residents to call 911 and report the incidents to law enforcement authorities.

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