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Teen Dating Violence Is on the Rise. What You Need to Know Now.

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University of Virginia senior, Yeardley Love, was killed by her wealthy boyfriend, George Huguely. Her body was found in her room at college on May 3; another victim of dating violence. Just as disturbing as her death, is the fact that two months earlier, three Lacrosse players had to pull Huguely off Love at a party, and just days before her murder, there was yet another violent incident. In addition, her friends reported that Huguely was threatening her verbally, with emails and texts.

This is not some isolated incident. A recent survey by Liz Claiborne Inc., and the Family Violence Prevention Fund found that 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the U.S. have been a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Girls ages 16 to 24 are at greatest risk of intimate partner violence. This violence spans across all socioeconomic levels and knows no race. Recently Kim Kardashian has admitted being a victim of violence in her marriage to Damon Thomas. Then there are the unforgettable photos of Rihanna after she was beaten by Chris Brown. And let's not overlook the increasing degree of control and bizarre behavior of Spencer Pratt toward his wife, Heidi (formerly Montag). He recently boasted on an episode of The Hills, as Heidi robotically nodded in agreement, "I don't let her go on TV, no computers. The only thing Heidi does is read and write poetry and pet puppies." This type of statement is often the first sign of abuse- control.

Teenagers need to understand that love does not involve controlling the other person. Control, jealousy and rage are about FEAR, not about LOVE. "Most teens don't understand what a healthy relationship is, often mistaking the controlling behaviors that characterize abuse for signs of love," Says Dr. Elizabeth Miller, a leading expert on teen dating violence. When Dr. Miller administered a test to a class of middle-schoolers on relationships 100% said possessiveness and jealousy are part of true love. Yes, that's right, 100%!!

Where is this attitude coming from? Do we live in a culture that promotes this kind of behavior? In order to see the connection between culture and prevalence of violence toward women, we need only to look at popular rap videos with Snoop Dog crowing about "Pimping out" his women referring to them as "Ho's" and "Bitches". This language degrades and objectifies women as nothing more than objects to satisfy man's sexual pleasures. Then there is the commonly accepted fashion item known as a "Wife-beater" T-shirt, or 12 year old girls sending naked pictures of themselves to pubescent boys in order to become popular. Many advertisements also objectify women and give power solely to the men. We need only to look at the change in pornography over the last few decades to see how accepted violence against women has become. Years ago "hard core pornography" consisted of a man and a women having sexual intercourse. By today's standards, that would be considered "soft core porn". Today's pornography features young women often performing with multiple partners in violent scenarios that are only acceptable because we convince ourselves that the woman on the screen is getting paid and must therefore be enjoying herself. What message does this send to young boys about sex and intimacy when there is no respect and no regard shown to the women?

According to the website Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence www.acadv.org, teen dating violence is influenced by how teenagers look at themselves and others.

Young men may believe:

• they have the right to "control" their female partners in any way necessary.
• "masculinity" is physical aggressiveness
• they "possess" their partner.
• they should demand intimacy.
• they may lose respect if they are attentive and supportive toward their girlfriends.

Young women may believe:
• they are responsible for solving problems in their relationships
• their boyfriend's jealousy, possessiveness and even physical abuse, is "romantic."
• abuse is "normal" because their friends are also being abused.
• there is no one to ask for help.

This website has great information for you is you think you are being abused, or if you suspect your friend or your daughter is being abused.

If you are currently in an abusive relationship, that is, if you have been verbally threatened, physically assaulted (i.e. pushed, kicked, slapped, held against your will, punched), or if your partner routinely tries to control you (i.e. prevents you from hanging out with your friends, is jealous of your friends), or verbally abused (i.e. calling you fat, stupid, lazy)in person, through text or via email, or he is pressuring you to have sex and you're not ready- you need to get help NOW. Abusive behavior almost never gets better; it only escalates into more violence. Tell a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, friend who will help you, parent, or any adult you can trust. If you don't have anyone to support you, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-888-799-SAFE (7233). They can help guide you to the right support. Remember, this happens to 1 in 3 young women. You are not alone. You have a right to stand up for yourself or for your friends. This needs to stop with you.

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