Violence in adolescent relationships is as common as in adult relationships. However, it is harder to recognize because the teenage girl lives under the belief that she has found her true love. What if physical or psychological abuse occurs in a teen relationship? What are the reasons for this phenomenon?

According to American research, one in three teenagers has experienced some form of dating violence, and Slovak numbers are likely to be very similar. In the initial phase of a relationship, psychological violence is most common, which is usually a precursor to physical and sexual violence.

Psychological abuse: Control is often caused by jealousy

The basic form of psychological violence is control resulting from jealousy. The partner controls his girlfriend at every step and tells her that he is afraid of losing her and that he cannot live without her.

Literature and romantic movies confirm young people’s belief that great love requires absolute sacrifice and giving up everything. There is no teenager in the world who wouldn’t dream of such a relationship. Young girls can often give up everything: family, friends, interests, and passions just to keep their half and feel loved. In the name of this love, the boy limits the girl’s freedom and exercises power over her. What begins as “great love” eventually becomes imprisonment for the girl. In fear of her loved one’s anger, she limits her rights. She isolates herself from her peers and family and leaves extracurricular activities. The more lonely she becomes, the more dependent she becomes on her partner’s feelings and opinions, who can eventually become the only important person in her life.

Teen dating violence: Disturbing signals

The most visible signs are those of physical abuse, which the girl tries to cover up or for which she finds a strange explanation. There may be a sudden change in her behavior. She begins to avoid current company, gives up her favorite activities, and/or stops developing her passions. Her clothing style, habits, and preferences change. The victim of violence may have difficulties concentrating, be in a depressive mood, express anxiety over the sound of the phone, or suffer from depression. In some cases, the girl stops caring about her appearance, disguises her figure with clothing, and quickly loses or gains weight. When parents ask about the boy, she defends him and makes excuses.

Why do girls stay in toxic relationships? For the same reasons that adult women do. Out of fear, because of misunderstood love, fear of loneliness, and reactions from those around them.

In teenagers, there is currently no material dependence on their partner, but the emotional bond is extremely strong. “Girls claim that what keeps them in a destructive relationship is a mixture of contradictory teachings,” explains a psychologist. They return with promises of improvement and sympathy with their partner, and sometimes simply out of fear (when there is a threat that he or she will harm her or her loved ones). There are such beliefs behind it as: “my love will change him,” “he behaves that way because no one loved him in childhood,” “he will change as soon as he stops drinking.” The reason for staying in such a relationship is also fear of separation, fear of finding another partner, and a lack of support from adults, to whom their suffering is usually not talked about.

Why do teenagers use violence in relationships?

There is no clear answer to the question of why young people use violence. The most commonly cited reason is jealousy stemming from a lack of security. Young men are taught that masculinity means strength, dominance, and control. Therefore, strict beliefs about masculinity and femininity are widespread among teenagers. Boys want to dominate the relationship – girls feel forced to submit. In addition, alcohol and drugs are often added, which strengthen aggressive behavior. Family cases also contribute to this: a boy may have experienced violence in childhood or witnessed his mother being abused, and such a person enters adulthood with the conviction that it is normal.

How to help your child?

If you know or suspect that your daughter is a victim of abuse, do not underestimate it. Proceed slowly, do not tell her to break up the relationship immediately, as it can only cause resistance. Try to control your emotions and have a calm conversation. It is good to ask open questions like: “You seem very sad lately, do you want to talk about it?” “I noticed that Tom is calling you at night too, does it bother you?” Convince your daughter that you are not her enemy, that you are on the same team. Let her reveal all her emotions about her boyfriend and talk about them. If your teenager still wants to stay in a relationship that is destroying her, seek professional help. Remember that if your daughter’s boyfriend threatens to harm her, you should always assume that this threat can be fulfilled.