Talking to teens
Domestic violence is not a term traditionally associated with teenagers; however, incidents of domestic violence, particularly connected to teen dating is extremely high.
As in the cases of adult domestic violence, teens experience the entire spectrum of domestic abuse, ranging from simple battery to stalking to, in some extreme cases, murder.
“My sister has been in an abusive relationship for more than three years,” 19-year-old Sabrina said. “It started when she was a freshman in high school. Whenever her boyfriend thought she was looking at another boy or cheating on him, he would slap her upside the head.
“She would fight back. One day she hit him in the head with a hammer while he was driving the car. Another time she pushed him out of a moving car.”
A couple of weeks ago, teen R&B singer Chris Brown made the news when his girlfriend Rihanna, accused him of beating and biting her while riding in their limousine. Brown later surrendered to police and was arrested and charged with domestic battery.
As the story unfolded, it was said the altercation started when Rihanna, also a teen pop singer, reportedly told Brown she had given him herpes. An argument ensued and Brown allegedly not only bit her, but hit her in the face, even though there was no apparent visible signs of bruising.
“I don’t think he did what she says,” 17-year-old Krystal of Austin Polytech High School said. “I think she has anger issues and is trying to get back at Chris about something else.”
When asked if she thought there was ever a time domestic violence is justified, Krystal said no.
“If you have anger problems,” Krystal said, “you shouldn’t get involved in a relationship. A lot of people think men or boys should be held to a higher standard and not hit a woman or girl, but I think they both should be held to the same standard.
“If you are not mature enough to handle yourself in a relationship without physically fighting, then you should not be in one.”
Maria, an 18-year-old Harold Washington College freshmen of Mexican heritage, said she has witnessed several of her friend’s explosive relationships over the years.
“It may be in our culture for the men to be hot-headed,” she said “but there is no excuse to be physically abusive.”
Maria said her friend, who is now 19, has been in an abusive relationship since she was 14.
“The man is a few years older,” Maria said. “My friend actually blames herself for when he hits her. She comes up with stupid excuses to justify him hitting her. I have tried to convince her to leave him, but she won’t.”
This is a common element in relationships involving domestic violence. The victim stays with the abuser because she is convinced the person abuses them out of love. Others stay because they fear for their lives.
Often times, the abuser threatens the victim and convinces her that he will hurt or kill them or someone in their family. He also convinces the victim that she is alone and has no one else but the abuser to depend upon. This trend is prevalent in both adult and teenage cases of domestic abuse.
A two-year study conducted between 2005 and 2007 by school social workers and published in the October 2008 issue of the National Association of Social Workers’ Children and Schools Journal found that the types of violence have escalated from hitting and punching to threats, harassment, kidnapping, sexual assault, stalking and, in extreme cases, murder.
There have been many incidents of murder-suicide. Last spring, 19-year-old Sarah lost her 17-year-old sister, Debra, when she was stabbed to death by her boyfriend, James, after Debra refused to go with James to the senior prom.
“The two had broken up because James was too violent,” Sarah said. “James would lose his temper all the time. He would grab her by her arms and shake her. Sometimes she would have dark bruises all over her arms and neck.
“One time he pushed her down the stairs,” she added. “My mother and I begged her to stop seeing him, but she wouldn’t. She would sneak around with him, and then finally, when she thought we had forgotten about the last fight, she would start openly dating him again.”
Sarah said Debra was stabbed on her way home after cheerleading practice. James offered her a ride and apparently, instead of driving her home, he drove to a park and stabbed her to death. He then shot himself. The two were found dead in the car which was parked inside the forest preserve.
“I wasn’t surprised he killed her,” Sarah said. “I knew if she didn’t stop seeing him something like this would happen sooner or later. James had a mean streak.”
Shonte, 19, says she believes in fighting back. She admits to trying to set her boyfriend’s car on fire because he was riding another girl around in it.
“I saw him with the girl in the car when I came over to pick up my son,” she said. “I had called him several times to tell him to bring me my son, and he didn’t answer the phone, so I walked around the corner to get my baby.
“I saw him in the car with the girl and he got out and followed me up stairs to his house. I got my son and took him home and came back with a teddy bear, some lighter fluid and a match.”
“I poured lighter fluid over the bear and threw it under the car,” she added. “Before I could light the match, one of his friends grabbed me and carried me back to my house. I was going to burn it up!” she added. “I didn’t care anymore.”
Shonte said that was one of many terrible fights she has had with her baby’s father. She says he once pushed her down the stairs and pulled plugs out of her hair. He was verbally abusive in public. She says they are no longer dating and that’s for the best, because she believes one of them would have eventually killed the other if the relationship had continued.
Domestic violence is not always perpetrated by males on females. Tim, 18, a Triton College freshman, said he has had several girls perform acts of violence against him, including throwing bleach in his face and being stabbed in the arm.
“They accused me of cheating,” Tim said. “They never saw or caught me cheating, and I never confessed to it. Both times, their friends told them I was supposedly cheating. One time when I was 15, a girl stabbed me in the arm. I tried to get my sister to beat her up, because I was raised not to hit a girl. My sister wouldn’t do it because she said it was our business and she wasn’t going to get involved.
“Another time, when I was a junior in high school,” he continued, “My girlfriend threw bleach on my new clothes. She was aiming for my face, but missed. I was standing there with my homies, and I just laughed and moved on. She was weird. She was always making up some concoction with stuff from under her kitchen sink. She would make bleach bombs and throw them at people all the time.”
Many teens have not only been victims of domestic abuse, but witnessed it as well. Candance, 14, says she has a friend who would come to school with fresh bruises almost daily.
“One time her face was so bruised, the teacher took her outside the class to talk with her. She would always say stupid stuff like I fell or slipped in the bath tub, but we all knew someone was beating her,” Candance said.