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

Eliminate Fighting

Tired of the fighting?

Are you struggling to connect with your teen?  Tired of the fighting or the silent treatment and ready to eliminate fighting?

Learn how to take the energy of their anger and resistance and redirect it into change with these 5 simple steps.

Step 1 – Take a time out

Just like with a frantic team, a wise coach sometimes needs to call a time-out. The time out is for you as a parent to gain perspective – change the momentum of the debate – and reduce the tension in the game.

We have found that successful families have parents that take time out to assess their approach to parenting.

So ask yourself…
-what type of parent do I want to be?  
-how do I want to be remembered when my teen grows up?
-What fears & insecurities do I have about being a parent and how are they affecting my teen?

Step 2 – Reflect on your role

Identify which one of these three methods your teen is employing as their defense against your requests.

Rebellion

Distance

Compliance

The rebellious angry teen is so busy fighting against other people’s goals that they are unable to set their own and are thereby still being controlled by someone else.  Of course to be successful the rebel needs someone to rebel against. Unfortunately, it is easy for us as parents to fall into this role, playing the challenger and telling the rebel what to do. The more you catch mistakes and confront, the more defensive they will become. 

Other teens deal with demands by leaving either physically or emotionally.  This can be as subtle as turning on the television, tuning out of a conversation, or as dramatic as running away.  Those who distance themselves usually do so because they feel powerless and they don’t see any way to be themselves in a close relationship with the one they perceive as having all the power. These teens can appear to be very independent, but like the rebels, it is only a facade to protect their insecurity.

A compliant teens’ technique is much more subtle.  They are willing to maintain peace at any price because the fear of conflict is just too great. It might seem strange to suggest that obedience is a technique to gain freedom within the home, but often teens are willing to conform outwardly while holding different beliefs internally. The freedom that they gain is a freedom within the heart and mind. If there is ‘acting out’ it will be secretive or delayed until they are out of their parents’ view.

Step 3 – Simply listen

Now that you have identified your own fears as a parent and determined how your teen is masking their true struggle – it is time for the third step in your dynamic move.  And it is to simply listen.  Recognize your teen is in a difficult spot but don’t try to convince them of anything.  Confrontations will always lead to some form of resistance.  Your teen is busy trying to establish their independence and prove to you that they are capable.  So let go of the rope – it should not be a tug of war – the battle should not be with you.

Step 4 – Ask open-ended questions 

Your questions should help them consider their current choices with the future in mind and stimulate elaboration like, “How do you see this happening?” or “What do you think you will do?”

Even if they are hostile or confused, affirm their passion to find a solution to the problem.

Remember that you are trying to build a relationship with them.  It isn’t about getting them to do what you want.  Or proving you are right.

Step 5 – Provide motivation

Like a coach motivating their team your teen will need to be encouraged and cheered on. Teens often feel very alone and are trying to negotiate a lot of instability that they feel exists in their lives.  One of the best ways to create movement is through shared goals. Find simple goals you can agree on and work together towards those.

Believe in their abilities. Build on their strengths.

Teens don’t typically want to fail in life, but they get in binds and find it hard to escape. As a leader in your home, look for ways to release your teen by focusing on where they want to go – their hopes and aspirations – not their mistakes and past failures.