For those who follow me as a Blogger, you know I recently wrote a book about my experience as a Domestic Violence Survivor. I escaped my abuser 10 years ago and it was years of an emotional roller coaster for me to recover. The fears stayed, the scars healed slowly. I had lost trust in others and learned to shut down and it took me years to find that ‘off switch’ to feeling like I need to close up often and keep my distance from family and friends. The physical scars healed fast, but the emotional scars took a lot of work to heal and I can say that I accept the fact that I will always be changed and a tad bit scared for the rest of my life. However, I have learned to not let it define me, but to let them be scars that tell a story. I shared my story of the abuse and healing afterwards as a way to help others. Not only do I speak to those currently in an abusive relationship or who have survived an abusive relationship, but to the loved ones of victims so that they may understand that the emotional scars cause a victim to shut down frequently and there are ways to break through as a loved one and help them recover or even leave an abusive relationship.
Talking to your Teens about Domestic Violence & Dating
Why am I telling you this? Because Domestic Violence is real! It hurts and it changes you. Like drinking too many beers and critically injuring a friend or yourself in a car accident, our teens need to know that domestic violence also steals your freedom and changes you forever and it happens faster then you can have a chance to react. We talk to our teens about drugs, drinking, schoolwork, but do we talk enough about self-respect and abuse? It is a tough topic, but necessary. I knew of abuse, my parent’s never really talked much to me about it as they were (and still are) a happy couple. I was the ‘good kid’. I was everybody’s friend and my parent’s did not have to lecture me much as I made good choices on my own. I talk about this in my book, that I was the kind of girl that made a perfect target for an abuser. I could be pegged as someone who would rather keep quiet to keep the peace then speak my mind. I did not know abuse, never had been around it and never really felt I needed to discuss it. I would spot an abuser, right? 6 years of being beat and isolated taught me just how much of a target I was without knowing it.
How to talk to your teens
This is a tough subject and your teen thinks she/he is invisible. Notice I said she OR he? Men & women are both victims of domestic violence. Abuse does not know gender, age, nationality or beliefs. I have known men just as trapped as some women. Anyone who cannot accept who you are and uses control or manipulation to change that or isolate you from others is practicing abuse. Jealousy is such a common trait in teens and many have never been taught how to control their emotions. Take a teen who has high emotions without any control or discipline and let them taste jealousy, you have a very unstable mind. I have known girls who isolate and make their men feel guilty for being around his loved ones. Girls that belittle and humiliate their men in front of others. Girls that manipulate and lie to others to turn friends against the man. These are all abuse tactics. Your son needs to know this.
Honestly, as a domestic violence survivor and Author, I can tell you that the best way to talk to your teens and have them listen is to come with stories and facts. I am not telling you this just so you go read my book. I wrote my book because I believe in this method. Teens will listen when you touch their hard-to-reach compassion button. If you say nothing else, you state facts, did-you-knows and “hear his/her story-it’s sad and inspiring and I just want you to read this”. I have an adult step-son, a 16 year old step-son and a 6 year old son. The older boys are highly respectable men and because of my past (before I married their Dad) I have been very strict to raise them with respect. More so then a an A or B in that Biology class, respect will get them so much further down the road. I raise my boys to be honest, respectful and to go above and beyond. I say this all the time to them and in front of them to others. I don’t mind whatever career or path they choose-I just want them to do it honestly, respectfully and work hard. This type of education and behavior will not produce an abusive man. It also will not allow them to accept abuse from others.
Sometimes the best way to talk to your teens is to focus on the traits that will guide them to be strong & independent. Traits that will make them hard targets for an abuser. However, you decide to bring up the topic just make sure you do not skip this important conversation! I promise you that if you wait too long and an abuser gets to him or her first, there is no way you will ever get through to them without a long, hard struggle and when/if you can break through-they will not come out of it the same child you knew. It is sad. It is real and it happens to 1 in 7 women and 1 in 9 men! You are more than welcome to read and use my book as a conversation starter-it is why I wrote it (Love Should Not Hurt: Letting Go of the Pain to Live in Freedom).
When you do talk to your teen, here is what you are trying to accomplish:
- Statistics don’t lie
- Stories you hear are real
- Survivors are the lucky one’s who make it out alive
- You will not be the same person after the relationship-ever!
- Healing takes years afterwards. It is almost as difficult as the abuse itself
- Abuse is everywhere and YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE!
Please take this message seriously. If my story helps just one person avoid an abusive relationship then I accept the 6 years of torment I went through so I can tell a story that saves others.