Relationship reality check

Student and counselor open up honestly

Lucy Tu, Co-Editor-in-Cheif

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It’s the statistic we all know. It’s the headline we all watch pop up on our screens. It’s the victim we are aware exists but too often fail to protect.

Dating violence. Relationship abuse. Intimate-partner assault. No matter what name it takes, the high number of victims persists, and new research shows that those numbers are rising.

Until recently, most statistics on dating violence only focused on the abuse that happens during a relationship. What these studies failed to recognize is the fact that emotional and physical abuse extends far past a breakup.

Researchers at the University of Washington recently investigated teen dating drama and its post-breakup impacts. In their report, they discussed the rising number of teens being killed by a former or current partner. The researchers discovered that 7% of homicides, with victims being between the ages of 11 to 18, are dating violence related. Furthermore, breakups, along with jealousy and refusing to start a relationship, were determined to be the cause for 27% of all teen deaths between 2003 and 2016.  

Avanti Adhia, the study’s lead author and an epidemiologist at the University of Washington School of Medicine, explained in an interview with USA Today that many adults incorrectly assume that intimate-partner violence among teens is simply less serious than it is among adults.

“It’s important to highlight that this can really lead to death,” Adhia said. “It’s not something to brush off as ‘This is just an argument between kids.’”

What statistics also fail to capture is the true emotional toll abuse can have on victims. The absence of a personal aspect in dating violence statistics also hides the reality of how teen victims can be anyone, from your best friend to the person sitting behind you in Biology class.

“I dated Jessie Boyd* for about 7 months. During most of the relationship, we were pretty happy,” junior Kole Jordan* said. “The bad stuff happened mostly toward the end when we were off and on. She’d dangle a carrot and mess with my mind, but I’d end up feeling really bad about myself.”

In the context of intimate-partner abuse, teens are particularly vulnerable to becoming victims due to a number of factors.

“Our teen years are often times of discovering more of who we are as individuals,” high school counselor Lindsey Zentic said. “Without firm convictions, confidence, and support systems, it’s incredibly easy to be unaware of manipulation.”

Additionally, adolescents who are often exploring their first romantic relationship ultimately lack the experience and knowledge of what relationship red flags look like.

“The partner who is abusive probably has likable qualities as well. Because of this, the more submissive partner may continue to make excuses for the person they are with,” Zentic said. “The victim may also feel that they did something to deserve this treatment, but no one deserves this, and this feeling of guilt is a bi-product of the control that one person holds over the other.”

This abuse often results in the breakdown of its victims, whether that be mental or emotional. Moreover, as the conflict between victim and perpetrator continues beyond the relationship itself, victims may lose a sense of their own identity.

“Even after we actually broke up, she’d do things like tell this other girl I was flirting with her when I was just trying to be nice, and I wasn’t allowed to talk to the other girl anymore,” Jordan said. “I’ve never had to not be nice to someone.”

In truth, dating abuse may not be as black and white as statistics make it out to be. Coping with the aftermath of such a tumultuous situation can be understandably difficult as victims struggle to define themselves and how they view the abuse.

“The thing is, I don’t even hate her,” Jordan said. “I know we won’t get back together, but I don’t want to believe she was a bad person. I don’t think I can hate her.”

 

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