Line up 100 of the girls in your school. Can you identify the 40 of them who know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend? Or the 20 who admit to having been abused emotionally, physically, or sexually by a dating partner? Or the 25 who say a boyfriend has used a cell phone, email, instant message, web chat, or blog to put them down or say really mean things about them? If you can't, you're not alone. This is a problem girls aren't talking about and are unfortunately choosing not to deal with —the warning signs of abuse. To make matters worse, researchers have recently found that these same young women are at risk for all kinds of health problems. What is wrong with this picture? Domestic violence injures more young women than muggings and car accidents combined. Girls tend to keep their abusive relationship and warning signs of abuse a secret because they think that somehow they deserve to be treated so poorly. They might find their boyfriend's jealousy and possessiveness "romantic," or believe they are responsible for solving the problems in their relationship. After a while, ashamed and too embarrassed to admit they are being controlled by an abusive partner, their silence could lead them to use drugs and alcohol, to binge eat, smoke cigarettes, or show signs of depression...becoming less talkative and more isolated. All are at greater risk of suicide or, at the very least, of carrying these patterns of abuse into future relationships. So what are the warning signs of abuse from a friend who might be in an unhealthy relationship? And what can you do to help your friend get away before the warning signs of abuse become actual abuse? First be sure that your friend is in trouble by checking out these warning signs of abuse. Have you witnessed her being lied to, insulted, or threatened? Are there signs of her being physically assaulted: slapped, pushed or grabbed hard enough to cause discomfort? Is she sad and/or anxious, confused and/or guilty? Have her eating habits changed? Are her grades suffering? If your friend meets any of these warning signs of abuse, your challenge is to somehow get across to her that it is never worth dating someone who hurts you or makes you feel afraid. Make sure she knows that you believe in her and will always support her. And ask if she would be open to you explaining why you are concerned. Tell her how important it is to you that she just listens to your suggestions. Then encourage her to confide in an adult. Understand your friend who shows the warning signs of abuse will almost definitely explain her date is not always hurtful nor shows the warning signs of abuse, that he has a likable and loving side you don't see. She might worry that her boyfriend might harm himself if she leaves. And she'll probably argue that your concerns aren't legitimate, citing how popular or smart or athletic her guy is. Finally she might feel like a loser if she admits the truth...and fear her parents' reaction if they found out. No matter what kind of relationship you're in, breaking up can be a difficult task. If your talk doesn't lead to her acting right away, don't feel defeated. Give her time to think about what you said. Promise to stay close and let her know you're not going anywhere. She might have made a poor decision in choosing this boy who shows the warning signs of abuse, but she lucked out in choosing you to be her friend.
Know the warning signs of abuse and learn how to prevent violence at BeingGirl.com.