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

Violent relationships have a lasting impact

In February, Ray Rice was accused of punching his then fiancé, Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City elevator.  The NFL subsequently suspended him for two games. Through a series of meetings and interviews, Rice admitted to the assault. However, Rice’s now wife made a public apology, saying that she had instigated the physical aggression. While people were still upset about the event, the NFL dropped the charges and didn’t end up acquiring video footage. Monday, the video footage of the altercation was released. The graphic video shows Rice aggressive towards his then-fiancé. When she rushes at him he then punches her in the face, knocking her unconscious. The rest of the footage is Rice dragging her unconscious body haphazardly from the elevator. The footage is hard to watch. Since the release of the footage, Rice has been dropped by the Ravens and indefinitely suspended by the NFL. Within moments the footage went viral.

How does this affect your teen? According to

  • One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.

What are the long lasting affects of the abuse? According to

  • Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
  • Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.

With one in ten teens being exposed to violence in dating relationships, it’s an important conversation to open up. Your teen needs to know that it is never ok to turn to violence in a relationship and that they never simply have to be a victim in it either. Talk to teens about anger in relationships and some healthy ways to deal with conflict, anger, and frustration. Don’t be afraid to use examples in your own relationships of healthy ways to deal with conflict. Your teens are watching you and appreciate and learn best from your honesty.

Know the warning signs for abuse and share those. Warning signs of abuse include but are not limited to: using insults, humiliating, monitoring their every move (demanding text updates, wanting to know plans, etc), isolating them from friends and family, threatening to harm themselves, your teen, or others when not satisfied.

This is a sensitive subject. According to, “Only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse”. Teens who are in abusive relationships make excuses for their significant other such as, “It was only one time.” Or, “He promised he wouldn’t do it again. If you suspect your teen is or has been abused, call their school or any others who may have a grasp on what could be happening. Opening up this conversation is an important step in keeping your teen healthy and safe.