Question of the Week
August 9, 2004



"Dating is a time of social experimentation for teens. It's a time to test out which type of partners appeal to them, and how they can negotiate a romantic relationship.... Teen dating can be a wonderful and fun time where self confidence is built up, and dating techniques are learned. Teens also learn how to be both assertive and compromising, how to be giving to another and how to expect the same in return. All of this is a sort of practice session in order to find 'Mr.' or 'Miss Right.'"

"Invariably, all couples have disagreements at some point. However, couples in a healthy relationship will attempt to work through their disagreements constructively and solve them."

"Abuse is about controlling and dominating over the other person. Love is about caring for and supporting each other. The followings are indicators of a healthy relationship:
* Able to find healthy ways to work through differences and disagreements
* Able to make decisions together
* Able to share honest feelings freely
* Able to trust each other
* Able to understand yourself more, besides getting to know your date
* Able to respect each other's feelings and opinions, even if one may disagree.
* Feel comfortable, respected and at ease
* Feel loved by being listened to and supported
* Feel safe and secure"

Unfortunately, not all relationships are healthy, and some negative behaviors should not be tolerated.

"Hurting someone is never a sign of love. When a relationship is violent, the people involved need to either make the relationship work without violence or get out of it. You don't have to settle for an abusive relationship, and you don't have to continue to behave in abusive ways. Both of you deserve better.... Don't think the violence and abuse will just stop by itself. Violent behavior won't disappear on its own. One or both of you may have wrong ideas about relationships, expressing anger, what to expect from each other, what you deserve from someone you love. Usually, both of you need support and help to make a change. Being hurt by someone that you care about can make you feel weak, worthless, helpless, and alone. Turning to drugs or alcohol is not a good way to handle the situation - it will not make the abuse disappear or feel more bearable. Start by talking to someone. A counselor, a coach, a teacher, a parent, a doctor, a minister or rabbi, or a close friend can help you get an objective opinion of the situation. They may also have some good ideas to help you stop the hurting and start talking to each other about what you really want and need in a relationship."

But don't all couples fight?

"Dating violence is more than just arguing or fighting. Dating violence is a pattern of controlling behaviors that one partner uses to get power over the other, including:
* any kind of physical violence or threat of physical violence to get control;
* emotional or mental abuse, such as playing mind games, making you feel crazy, or constantly putting you down or criticizing you;
* sexual abuse, including making you do anything you don‚t want to, refusing to have safer sex, or making you feel bad about yourself sexually.
* Teens who abuse their girlfriends or boyfriends do the same things that adults who abuse their partners do. Teen dating violence is just as serious as adult domestic violence. Teens are seriously at risk for dating violence. Research shows that physical or sexual abuse is a part of 1 in 3 high school relationships."

Why are teens "seriously at risk"?

"Teen dating violence often is hidden because teenagers typically:
* Are inexperienced with dating relationships.
* Want independence from parents.
* Have romanticized views of love.
* Are pressured by peers to have dating relationships."

Do you suspect a friend is being abused?

"[S]ome signs of abuse to look for in a friend:
* unexplained bruises, broken bones, sprains, or marks
* excessive guilt or shame for no apparent reason
* secrecy or withdrawal from friends and family
* avoidance of school or social events with excuses that don't seem to make any sense.
If a friend is being abused, the one thing she needs most is someone to hear and believe her. Maybe she is afraid to tell her parents because they'll make her end the relationship. People who are abused often feel like it's their fault - that they 'asked for it' or that they don't deserve any better. But abuse is never deserved. Your friend needs you to help her understand that it is not her fault and she is not a bad person. The person who abused her is at fault and needs professional help."

"Your friend needs you..."

But what if it's not your friend who is being abused? What if it's you?

"What should you do if you are suffering from any type of abuse? ... You're worth being treated with respect and you can get help. First, make sure you're safe. A trusted adult can help you. If the person has physically attacked you, don't wait to get medical attention or call the police. Assault is illegal, and so is rape - even if it's done by someone you are dating. Avoid the tendency to isolate yourself from your friends and family. You might feel like you have nowhere to turn, or embarrassed about what's been going on, but this is the time when you need support most. People like counselors, teachers, coaches, and friends will want to help you, so let them. Don't rely on yourself alone to get out of the situation; the people who love and care about you can help you break away. It's important to know that asking for help isn't a sign of weakness - it actually shows that you have a lot of courage and are willing to stand up for yourself."

What if your friend doesn't want to talk about it? What if you are too embarrassed - or too scared - to ask a friend or family member for help? Sometimes it can be easier to face a stranger. Help can be as close as an anonymous phone call. Whether you are looking to get help for a friend or yourself, help is available. You can talk to someone who knows the system, and may even have been through it themselves. Depending on where you live, you may have resources listed in your local phone book. If you are in the United States, you can also call:

National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline
Call (800) 799-SAFE
Here you can find help with:
"Crisis intervention, information about domestic violence and referrals to local service providers to victims of domestic violence and those calling on their behalf;
* Highly qualified and trained Hotline Advocates to answer every call
* Assistance in both English and Spanish. Hotline Advocates and volunteers also have access to translators in 139 languages;
* Assistance through email at;
* Crisis intervention and referrals to the Deaf through the TTY line and email at;
* Informational materials on such topics as domestic violence, sexual assault, battering intervention and prevention programs, working through the criminal justice system and related issues."

What if you are not sure that it's really abuse? You don't want to overreact, but you have a feeling that it's just not right. Trust your feeling. If it doesn't feel right--then something is wrong. A relationship shouldn't make you feel that way. Even if it seems mild, or like it's no big deal, if the problem is not addressed, it is only going to get worse. If you are scared of what might happen if you say anything to the other person in your relationship, then you have all the more reason to be concerned.

Statistics found on the National Criminal Justice Reference Service web site:

"Stalking is more prevalent than previously thought: 8.1 percent of surveyed women and 2.2 percent of surveyed men reported being stalked at some time in their life; 1.0 percent of women surveyed and 0.4 percent of men surveyed reported being stalked in the 12 months preceding the survey. Approximately 1 million women and 371,000 men are stalked annually in the United States.... Women experience more intimate partner violence than do men: 22.1 percent of surveyed women, compared with 7.4 percent of surveyed men, reported they were physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, boyfriend or girlfriend, or date in their lifetime; 1.3 percent of surveyed women and 0.9 percent of surveyed men reported experiencing such violence in the previous 12 months. Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States."

"Approximately 1 million women and 371,000 men are stalked annually... 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually..."

While it is difficult for any abuse victim to ask for help, it can be even more difficult for men.

"The one defining characteristic of most abused men is that they are extremely embarrassed by their predicament. Most men who have reached out for help have been laughed at or scorned. They are often portrayed as weak and cowardly. This is simply not true. All types of men are subject to the same types of abuse as women, including physical abuse. These abuses range from a slap in the face to a kitchen knife being plunged into a husband's stomach while sleeping to being run down by his wife who was driving the family vehicle. Men also report emotional and sexual abuse, including threats and insults, withholding money, controlling personal activities, attempts to change him, unwanted sexual touching, forced sexual activity and sexual degradation."

Not only is it often difficult for men to ask for help because they are afraid of the response they will receive, not all shelters serve men. If you are (or know) someone who is being abused, you can find "men's (gender inclusive) shelter referrals" at:

"Toll Free Nationwide Helpline: 1-888-7HELPLINE
For Business and Non-Crisis calls: 1-207-683-5758

No matter who you choose to contact, or how, please remember to do it safely. Some phones keep track of numbers dialed, and the National Domestic Violence/Abuse Hotline has the following safety alert at the top of each page on its web site:

"Safety alert: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet and/or computer usage might be monitored, please use a safer computer, call your local hotline, and/or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline."

Abuse victims cross all lines: social, economic, gender, race. Maybe as you read this you have recognized a relationship that you know. Maybe you know (or are) the victim. Maybe you know (or are) the abuser....

"You love your family but you find yourself getting angry easily and using violence on your family members as a way to resolve problems or conflicts. It is hurting your family relationships. As time goes on, you may find yourself losing control over your actions and emotions. You wish that things can change. Things CAN get better. There are avenues for you to learn ways of managing life issues without using violence. Talk to a social worker or counsellor for advice."

No matter which side of the relationship you are on, there is help available. You would not want to see a friend go through this alone. You are not alone. Friends, family, even total strangers want to be there for you.

Questions of the Week:
How can you tell if you or someone you love is in an abusive relationship? If you suspect abuse, what can you say? What can you do? How can you safely get out of an unsafe or unhealthy situation? How can you help a friend who is in an unsafe or unhealthy relationship? How would you handle the situation differently if your friend were the perpetrator versus if your friend were the one being abused? If you are on EITHER side of an unsafe or unhealthy relationship, what are the first steps you need to take towards a safe and healthy future?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

Request Question of the Week by email 
QoW Archives: 9/2002 - 8/2003 9/2003 - 8/2004 9/2004 - 8/2005 9/2005 - 8/2006 9/2006 - present

Custom Search on the AE Site