IPV (Intimate Partner Violence) affects 4.8 million females and 2.9 million males in the U.S. annually, and the Alabama Coalition against Domestic Violence states that a third of all teenagers have been in dating relationships that were abusive. Often, parents or friends realize that something is "off" in the relationship even before the teen who's involved wakes up from the romantic dream and sees that he or she is really in a nightmare of abuse.
Let's start with subtle signs. The new girlfriend or boyfriend seems so charming and smitten with your teenager, and needs to know where your teen is at all times and who else your teen is talking to or going places with. This possessiveness and jealousy gradually turns into controlling behavior, with the boyfriend or girlfriend making decisions for your teen. Constant phone calls and text messages, attempts to isolate the teen from family and friends, and reading your teen's e-mail and letters are ways the boyfriend/girlfriend attempts to take over your teen's life.
Do you notice changes in your teen's appearance and behavior? Watch for weight loss due to stress, unexplained bruises, scratches, head trauma or broken bones. If your daughter wears long sleeves in the summer suddenly, puts on a lot of makeup, or wears sunglasses inside the house, these could be ways to hide marks of physical violence. If your teenager loses interest in school, starts having extreme mood swings, or stops hanging out with his or her usual friends, these may be signs of verbal abuse. Notice when the couple is together; does your teen seem nervous or frightened? Does the girlfriend always blame your son and treat him disrespectfully? Does the boyfriend grab your daughter roughly or call her names?
Check if alcohol or drugs are a part of the couple's relationship, as they increase the chance of abuse when used by the abuser or the victim. Other signs of an abusive relationship are difficulty sleeping, depression, talking about suicide or attempted suicide, trauma symptoms and panic attacks. No one deserves to be hurt in a relationship… especially not your teenager.