Unfortunately, the news has been saturated with stories of inappropriate relationships of all kinds. It’s still important that teens understand exactly what abusive relationship is? Even if they are aware of teen dating violence, they need to also think about relationships that are emotionally abusive.
Meet Cara, who was in an abusive teen dating relationship that began when she was 15.
When I was 15 years old, I met my first “real” boyfriend. We started out as friends, and when we decided to become romantically involved, the entire dynamic of our relationship went from easy going to manipulative and controlling.
He was so manipulative that I missed many of the signs of a controlling boyfriend. He convinced me to keep our relationship a secret, which in turn isolated me from my friends and family. So when he broke up with me, I had no one to turn to but him. He started a make-up-break-up cycle of abuse so that I had no say in being together or apart.
When we were together, he was sweet and caring and kind. When we broke up, he was demeaning, insulted me incessantly, and threw all of my insecurities and flaws in my face. I also found out he was cheating on me for the entire duration of our relationship with one of my best friends. He was also very sexually coercive. He would break up with me or fight with me if I didn’t give him exactly what he wanted.
He was so manipulative that I missed many of the signs. One time when we broke up, I decided I was done and told him to leave me alone. He texted and called me every day for a week, and I ignored him every time. Finally, he showed up at my house begging for me back and I felt I had no other choice since he would not leave me alone. By the time we ended for good, he left me feeling like a sexual object and worth nothing.
My self-esteem was at an all-time low, and I developed depression and anxiety. Being with him had changed who I was; I stopped enjoying activities I had once enjoyed, I was forced to lie and keep our relationship secret from my friends and family, and I began to drink and hurt myself to numb the pain.
Spread the Word about Emotional Abuse
My parents are phenomenal, but we never spoke about sex. In health class, we don’t learn about respecting our own bodies as well as respecting others, or that we reserve the right to say no without consequence or shame. I think this lack of abuse education had a major impact on the sexual abuse that occurred in my relationship. I wish I’d had people educating me about emotional and sexual abuse so that I could have either helped myself or reached out for help. I had heard of teen dating abuse, but I assumed that meant physical abuse. I never knew that emotional abuse even existed because he never hit me, so I thought it wasn’t abuse.
Abuse education is so vital to ending teen relationship abuse; parents and schools need to not only educate others but to educate themselves. Today, I am an employee at my university’s Women Center where I work as a peer advocate. I provide advocacy and educate the campus on dating abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. I am pursuing a career in prevention education of dating abuse and sexual assault and have my own blog called Stop the Hurt.
The teen stories in this series were provided to Your Teen by the organization No More (www.nomore.org)