How to Tell Your Friend or Daughter You're Concerned

We've talked about many areas of dating violence in the last week.

But what if you're worried about someone you know? How do you talk to them about it? It's definitely a tricky thing. Whether you're an parent or a friend of a teen, today we have resources for you.

I had a college girl write out for me why she thinks it's important for adults to listen about dating abuse. Here are her words:

"When I was 17, my mother told me that my friend's boyfriend “looked like a serial killer.” He looked a little different and sometimes his smile creeped me out, but my friend was “happy” (a term I once used loosely). My mother kept referring to that boy with questioning reservation, because she truly believed her sense of something being wrong. I didn't notice anything different. My friend was thoroughly obsessed with her boyfriend, and I didn't think that was weird. I have never had a boyfriend, perhaps that was normal. I didn't know anything at 17, because I had never truly been through anything, but my mother had been through it all and she could sense it.

My friend's boyfriend was abusive, and took her away from all her friends. Her parents didn't know until he shoved his arm through a glass door to stop her from leaving; her parents didn't know until the damage was already done. I didn't know until she told me, because at 17, I knew nothing.

There were tons of adults around my friend during this relationship, and all claimed to have “sensed something” before it was confirmed. I'm sure these adults simply didn't know that the girl was a little too obsessed with her boyfriend, maybe they didn't realize that she was cut off from family, and that that was totally normal for an abusive boyfriend to isolate her. As soon as the adults found out, action was taken. She was immediately relocated, a restraining order was placed, and her ex-boyfriend was given psychiatric help.

I could not have offered help like this, because at 17 all I could do was tell an adult, or another professional. She needed adults to intervene.  I often regret not having the confidence to fight for my friend, but there is nothing that can be done now but to help the healing process. Domestic Violence is not something that any teenager can deal with alone."

Well spoken. Now I'll refer you to some already well written articles of advice. If you'll take the time to click on these links, some good direction is offered for how you can approach your friend.

How to Tell a Friend You're Worried About Their Relationship by Michelle Hainer from

How to Help a Friend from the website. Another helpful article from them, knowing when to tell an adult or not, is FOR TEENS.

What if you're a mom or dad, and you see some things you don't feel good about in your teen's relationship? The website offers some good advice in A Letter to Parents.

Here are warning signs listed for parents to watch for: (excerpt from

A common characteristic of unhealthy and abusive relationships is the control that the abusive partner seeks to maintain in the relationship. This includes telling someone what to wear, where they can go, who they can hang out with, calling them names, humiliating them in front of others. Over time, the isolation from one's social network increases, as the abuser insists on spending time "just the two of us," and threatens to leave or cause harm if things do not go the way they want, "You must not love me." Creating this isolation and dissolution of one's social supports (loss of friends, disconnectedness from family) are hallmarks of controlling behaviors. In addition, abusers often monitor cell phones and emails, and for example, may threaten harm if the response to a text message is not instant. Parents are rarely aware of such controlling tactics as these occur insidiously over time, and an adolescent may themselves not recognize the controlling, possessive behaviors as unhealthy. "They must love me because they just want to spend time with me."

While the following non-specific warning signs could indicate other concerning things such as depression or drug use, these should also raise a red flag for parents and adult caregivers about the possibility of an unhealthy relationship:

    * no longer hanging out with his/her circle of friends
    * wearing the same clothing
    * distracted when spoken to
    * constantly checking cell phone, gets extremely upset when asked to turn phone off
    * withdrawn, quieter than usual
    * angry, irritable when asked how they are doing
    * making excuses for their boyfriend/girlfriend
    * showering immediately after getting home
    * unexplained scratches or bruises

For a free, downloadable, VERY helpful resource, take a look at the booklet for parents. 

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