Symptoms of an Abusive Relationship

Screen Shot 2015 08 25 at 1.37.06 PM 300x243 Symptoms of an Abusive RelationshipIf you have concerns that your daughter has already been hurt by an abusive boyfriend or has become enmeshed by a professor/coach/pastor, I have listed red flag indicators so you are able to move forward with some of the advice noted in the blog, Protecting our Daughters (2). At the end of this blog, I have also noted the importance of therapy and ways to discuss this with her.

The following symptoms and signs may indicate your daughter is in an abusive relationship: In short, she will appear depressed and this can be indicated by the following observable changes:

  • A sudden loss in her passions and interests.
  • Grades might be much lower or drop suddenly.
  • Disordered eating—compulsive overeating, anorexic (under eating) or obsessive calorie counting, vomiting or over-exercising after eating.
  • Sudden drop or gain in weight.
  • Sudden changes in her sleep pattern—she is unable to sleep (insomnia) or she is unable to get out of bed (hyposomnia).
  • Peer relationships suffer due to the time spent with her boyfriend, who may also be disparaging of her friends.
  • Unkempt appearance: perhaps dresses with less feminine flair or stops wearing makeup.
  • Obsessive about appearance to the point of changing fashion styles, hair and makeup.
  • Lowered immune system making her sick more often with viruses, infections, headaches and stomach problems.
  • Hopeless about future or stops planning her future and may want to withdraw from classes or may stop attending class in the middle of the semester.
  • Drugs and alcohol are suddenly used and/or they are being used in a more prevalent way.
  • Blames and shames others for not understanding her or meeting her demands.
  • Self-injury such as cutting or burning her arms, legs, and stomach area.
  • Addicted to the relationship and avoids other responsibilities or relationships.
  • More secretive/deceptive about her time and where she is going.
  • Suicidal due to a sense of responsibility for abuse experienced in the relationship.

As parents, you always have the right to ask your daughter whether she is in an abusive or controlling relationship. If she’s unwilling to talk with you, use your leveraging power to have her discuss these observable concerns with a therapist. In other words, you may need to say something like this:

Screen Shot 2015 08 25 at 1.36.38 PM Symptoms of an Abusive Relationship“You are not achieving and living life the way I know you can. You have the right to be loved and supported. I want you to visit with a therapist. I want to share with the therapist the things that I am concerned about—either with you present or before you speak with him/her. Your ongoing communication with a therapist is up to you. However, I will not continue to pay for your phone, your courses at school, fund your hobbies or sports until there is an agreement that you will be in therapy until this is resolved.”

If you introduce the need for therapy and your child shows no resistance, I still urge you to see if there is a way you can speak with the therapist about your concerns prior to your daughter’s session.

As a former abuse victim, my decline was subtle so I wasn’t able to grasp the ways I had been malfunctioning. I was knee deep in shame, confusion and fatigue. Providing a therapist a comparison of your daughter’s former functioning to what you are seeing in her now would give that therapist an optimal understanding of what might be happening in this abusive dynamic.

Former Shelterwood Academy Therapist:

Mary Ellen McDonald-Mann, MS, LCSW
President of Mann Counseling Group & Co-founder of Last Battle, LLC

Video: Mary Ellen presents her new book From Pain to Power

 

 

How do you protect your daughter

Alli How do you protect your daughterIn the previous blog, I submitted some pretty scary statistics. Yet, there is hope. I have heard it said that knowledge is power. However, I believe that knowledge is opportunity and caring is power. So how does an informed parent proceed with caring for your teen? Please read the following ideas.

What should you do as a parent?

  • Tell your daughter about these statistics so that she does NOT become one.
  • If your daughter reports abuse to you, always believe her. You are not the investigator.
  • Teach her to never give out her passwords.
  • Teach her to never accept a drink from someone and never leave her drink at a party.
  • Teach her not to keep secrets. If she is a victim of a crime, she has the right to report this to local law enforcement. If she has been raped (or suspects she has been date raped) she needs to go the local emergency room to complete a rape kit— and not to take a shower or wash at all before being examined. This will provide evidence to the court system that she has been raped. Her body is the crime scene and without evidence, prosecuting becomes very difficult. Due to this and other factors, 98% of rapists never spend a day in jail.
  • Make sure she knows she has to fight back. She cannot bury this. This wasn’t her fault. It doesn’t matter what she should have been doing differently, she is NEVER responsible for someone else’s evil choices. The fact that they violated her is never her fault. NEVER. She did not have it coming. She did not ask for it.
  • Teach her that if she is in a psychologically abusive relationship, more overt displays of loyalty and friendship to him will NOT make it better. More transparent schedules, more time spent together will NOT allay his game to control your daughter. Teach her to just walk away and not formally break up. The less she says, the less manipulation will occur.
  • Encourage your daughter to tell you or another trusted adult if she is worried about what is happening. If she feels she is in any danger, encourage her to keep all digital communication and voice mails, as well as any letters/notes. These might be later needed as proof, if she chooses to file harassment charges. Perpetrators are addicted to controlling someone—the only thing that helps them is a firm boundary or a threat of punishment—such as legal action—if it continues.
  • It’s fair for parents to be suspicious when they are concerned that their child could be involved in an abusive relationship. You are not controlling your child when you ask for their phone and investigate their social media activity. Check your cell phone bill as every company provides a list of numbers used for calls and texts. You have a right to know what’s happening with your child in your home or what is happening to them if you are paying for their phone bill. Let this be a standard of providing the phone in the first place.
  • Teach her to lock her dorm room each time she leaves and enters her room, even if her roommate lost the key.
  • We teach children to wear seat belts and they don’t think they are going to get into a car crash each time they get into a car. Teaching your daughter to protect herself and how to respond if harassment or assault has happened gives her options to be in control, not to become paranoid about people.

An ounce of prevention is worth 100 pounds of cure in this case. Please don’t wait until your daughter is hurting. Share this with her the minute she has a phone and most definitely as she ventures out on her own whether in college, graduate school or living on her own.

Former Shelterwood Academy Therapist:

Mary Ellen McDonald-Mann, MS, LCSW
President of Mann Counseling Group & Co-founder of Last Battle, LLC

Video: Mary Ellen presents her new book From Pain to Power

Protecting our Daughters from Abuse

Screen Shot 2015 03 03 at 3.37.40 PM1 285x300 Protecting our Daughters from AbuseAs parents, we send our adolescent and young adult daughters into a world that is often filled with rich opportunity. And while our goal as parents is to nurture them into God’s design and purpose for her, we must also take captive the warning Jesus gives his disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves, so be wise as a serpent and gentle as a dove.” (Matthew 10) Training your daughter to know that “wolves”—like sexual predators—are in her midst can help her wisely navigate her social and romantic life. With the information provided below, I want to encourage you to teach these realities to your daughter so that she is armed with methods that can protect her from harassment, date rape, and other violations to her dignity.

As Maya Angelou once wrote, “When we know better, we do better.” Let’s keep her from becoming one of these tragic statistics so she can pursue—unharmed—the purpose she alone was born to fulfill.

Alarming Statistics on Teenage Girls & Young Women

  • The highest incidence of sexual assault happens to girls between the ages of 16-19 years of age.
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average.
  • Among female victims of intimate partner violence, 94% of those ages 16-19 years old.
  • With regard to physical violence, 1 in 3 adolescent girls in the US is a victim of physical, sexual or emotional and verbal abuse.
  • Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18 years old and these students are more likely to experience digital dating abuse.
  • The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence. Violent behavior begins typically between the ages of 12 and 18 years of age.
  • Nearly all—99%—of forcible rapes involves a female victim. 54% of these incidences go unreported.
  • Rape is the fastest growing crime
  • Only 2% of the time is the rape not true, just as in other violent crimes.
  • One in 6 girls is raped her first 15 weeks of college.
  • 61% of girls will develop an eating disorder if sexually abused or assaulted.
  • 67% of those who were sexually abused in childhood go on to engage in domestically violent relationships in adulthood.
  • 90% of those with addictions were sexually abused.
  • 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
  • One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a girlfriend or boyfriend.
  • 70% of those ages 20-24 have been victimized by a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Nearly half (43%) dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.
  • College students are NOT equipped to deal with dating abuse —57% say it is difficult to identify; 58% say they don’t know how to help someone who’s experiencing it.
  • One in 3 (36%) dating college students has given a dating partner their computer, email, or social network passwords. And these students are more likely to experience digital dating abuse.

Lack of Awareness

  • Only 33% of teens who were in violent relationships ever told anyone about the abuse.
  • 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue/admit they didn’t know it is an issue.
  • Though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse, a majority of parents (58%) could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.
  • Almost all abuse starts with psychological abuse. Those who perpetrate another are usually attempting to gain advantage of someone—a girl, in this case—by making them feel sorry for them. Boys in adolescence usually do this by claiming that they will hurt or kill themselves if the relationship does not go their way. To have the relationship go their way, the girl may feel manipulated into sexual acts, forced to continue the relationship, and so on. Jealousy and suspicion are a part of the dynamic adolescent and young adult men typically use to gain the pity and sympathy of the girls they date.

(Statistics are gathered from RAINN and Darkness to Light.)

Former Shelterwood Academy Therapist:

Mary Ellen McDonald-Mann, MS, LCSW
President of Mann Counseling Group & Co-founder of Last Battle, LLC

Video: Mary Ellen presents her new book From Pain to Power

Mentoring Relationships

Susan Jekielek, M.A., Kristin A. Moore, Ph.D., and Elizabeth C. Hair, Ph.D. (2002) have spent a great deal of time studying the effectiveness of mentoring relationships. They have found significant improvement in mentees:

  • Significant reductions in school absence
  • Higher college participation
  • Better school attitudes and behavior
  • Less drug and alcohol use
  • Less likelihood of hitting others
  • More positive attitudes toward their elders and toward helping
  • Improved parental relationships and support from peers

Jekielek and others found that higher-quality mentoring relationships were built upon structure and planning. Success was much more likely when there was an effort to provide pre- and post-match training and support with some direct supervision of the matched relationship. It was also important for the mentor/mentee interests to be considered during the matching process because shared social activities where critical to building trust.

couch reading sm 300x196 Mentoring RelationshipsEffective mentors should be willing to commit to a long-term relationship and make regular contact with their mentee, as well as participate in ongoing training and communication with program directors. Through an in-depth, nine-month study, Morrows and Style (1995) identified two main types of mentoring relationships and the outcomes they produce. “Developmental” volunteers were adult mentors who held expectations that varied over time in relation to their perception of the needs of the youth. In the beginning, the mentors devoted themselves to establishing a strong connection with the youth. They felt satisfied with their mentee’s progress and with the relationship overall; when doubts arose, they were more likely to consult caseworkers for reassurance or advice. The youth in these relationships reported feeling a considerable sense of support from their adult friend. Further, many of the youth in developmental relationships demonstrated a pattern of seeking help independently and voluntarily divulged difficulties in their school or personal lives, allowing the volunteer to provide guidance and advice.

Prescriptive” volunteers viewed their own goals for the match (usually these are “good” goals, e.g., academic achievement) as primary rather than the youth’s. Some prescriptive volunteers required the youth to take equal responsibility for maintaining the relationship and for providing feedback about its meaning. The prescriptive volunteers ultimately felt frustrated. The youth were similarly frustrated, dissatisfied with the relationship, and far less likely to regard their mentor as a source of consistent support. Often, these prescriptive relationships developed growing tension, which led, at least in part, to their frequent demise. Two-thirds of the prescriptive matches no longer met nine months after the first study interview, whereas only about ten percent of the developmental relationships had ended.

Grossman and Rhodes found that matches involving volunteer married persons 26-30 years old, were 86 percent more likely to terminate their relationship each month compared with matches with 18-25 year old volunteers, and far more likely than non-married 26-30 year olds (who were less likely to terminate relationships compared with 18-25 year old volunteers). At Shelterwood, we have also found that single mentors between the ages of 21 – 27 are incredibly committed to the task of mentoring and are less likely than all other age groups to end their relationship with students. While, society has deemed this age group as selfish and uncommitted, at our Academy we have found our mentors to be incredibly committed and trustworthy. They demonstrate an eagerness to learn and share their lives with younger students. This age group tends to be more open to supervision and training than older volunteers and they have the disposable time necessary to invest deeply into the lives of their mentees.

Good quality mentorship programs like Shelterwood use structure and planning to facilitate high levels of mentor-mentee interaction. In her research, Jekielek has found that those mentors who received more hours of training had longer-lasting matches. At Shelterwood, training and supervision is an ongoing part of our program as we bring teens into relationship with recent college graduates. This type of intensive mentor care has been part of the Shelterwood experience for over thirty-four years and often continues long after our students have graduated from our school. Avenues such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have allowed us to maintain a significant level of investment, even if the distance between the mentor and mentee expands over time.