How Abusive Relationships Hurt Friendships

Thu, 2013-09-12 14:26 � nosman

Is your child ignoring their friends? Do you have a student that seems to be hiding in class? Does your friend’s teenager quieter and withdrawn?

Knowing someone is in an unhealthy relationship can be frustrating and terrifying. If you’re a parent, educator, health professional or concerned friend, you want them to thrive in a healthy relationship, away from their abuser.

There are early warning signs of abuse you can use to help you identify if someone you know is in an abusive relationship, including unexplained marks and bruises or their partner acting extremely jealous or possessive. However, there are other warning signs that may not be as apparent at first. Have they stopped participating in extracurricular activities? Have they stopped spending time with other friends? Are their friends worried about them?

Dating abuse happens in both straight and LGBT relationships, and either gender can be abusive. Abusers thrive on being in control and manipulating the situation, such as constant monitoring or instilling fear in their partner. This can mean the victim is cut off from their social circle, leading to further isolation. As a result, not only does the victim suffer from the abuse of the relationship, but they feel they are cut off from the support they could be receiving.

Furthermore, trying to connect with a child, student or friend who’s in the middle of an abusive relationship may make you feel depressed, anxious, frustrated, angry and exhausted. You want them to end the relationship, but may feel helpless watching them suffer. Although you may feel as though there is nothing you can do, there is plenty you can do to help.

Be supportive and understanding. Tell them you’re concerned they haven’t been hanging out with their friends or participating in extracurriculars anymore. Focus on them and their feelings instead of the abuser and what they should do. Listen to their side of the story and continue to offer support. Be careful not to invalidate their feelings or minimize the situation because your child is young or inexperienced in relationships. Let them know that this kind of behavior is not normal and not their fault. Make sure they know you’re concerned for their safety and that you can connect them to a professional, like an attorney, with whom they can talk to confidentially. Help develop a safety plan and remember that ultimately it’s their decision to leave.

Every teen deserves a safe and healthy relationship. Encourage an open dialogue between you and your child, students, patients or other adolescents in your community about what healthy relationships look like. Offer nonjudgmental support so they know they can come to you for help. Contact Break the Cycle to see if we offer dating violence prevention programs in your school or community group, or request training.