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Teen Dating

Q. My boyfriend has hit me once, but then swore he wouldn’t do it again. Should I believe him?
A. “It is in our human nature to push the boundary as far as someone will let us push it. That is why we have laws, rules, regulations, even curfews! If your parents gave you a curfew of midnight would you come home at 10:30p? No, probably not. You’ll most likely come home at 12. Because we, as humans, push boundaries. If your boyfriend hits you and swears he will never do it again and you take him back, are you teaching him not to hit you again? No. You are teaching him that the boundary in your relationship is that “if you hit me, as long as you say you are sorry and swear never to do it again, then I will take you back.” And his nature will be to push that boundary because he thinks he can get away with it. If you want someone to change, give them consequences to their actions. Break up with them!” — Kristin Rollins, Megan Project Educator, Safe Harbor

Q. My boyfriend/girlfriend wants me to do something sexually with him that I don’t want to do. What should I do?
A. “If you say no and he makes you feel like by not doing it then you do not love him, care about the relationship, etc. then you can be confident he is only “loving” you for what you can do for him . . . not who you are. A healthy relationship loves (to the best of our ability) unconditionally – without condition (aka “if you love me you will have sex with me”). Conditional love, which is what a lot of teenagers find themselves in, loves based on simple ultimatum – on what you can do for them. If he truly cares about you, he will respect you for being able to say “no” and expressing your opinions honestly.” — Kristin Rollins, Megan Project Educator, Safe Harbor

Q. My boyfriend/girlfriend has been hitting me and tells me that they’ll kill me if I tell anyone. What should I do?
A. “Telling someone is the only way the truth can be brought to light. His use of control is by threatening you- making you feel trapped. Abuse is all about power and control. Take the control back and tell a trusted adult. Not just anyone. As much as you feel like you can only trust your friends in this situation, a trusted adult is someone who can help you safely get out of this relationship. Unfortunately, for someone in an abusive relationship, the most dangerous place to be is out of it. That is when the abuser feels like they have lost control. Get an adult involved in the situation- they can help you get in touch with the proper authorities, get a safety plan, and keep yourself safe.” — Kristin Rollins, Megan Project Educator, Safe Harbor

Q. Girls are the only victim of teen dating violence, right?
A. Definitely not. We have seen an increase in the number of male victims in recent years. Men can be physically, sexually and psychologically abused. Psychological abuse is very common with female abusers- threats, manipulation, being controlling and bossy, etc. Females are now saying “not only am I not going to become a victim of abuse, I’m now going to become the abuser.” This is not the solution – we can not “fight fire with fire”. Men have a tendency not to report because of what will be thought of them. It is important to know that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are a victim – male or female. It is vital that you tell someone.” — Kristin Rollins, Megan Project Educator, Safe Harbor

Q. I have a friend who is in an abusive relationship. What should I do?
A. “There are some very important steps to take. First of all, talk to your friend. Express your concerns without judging them. Also, point out their strengths and encourage them by saying that they deserve so much better. Most importantly, give your friends an ultimatum. You basically have to say to them, “Either you tell an adult what is going on or I will.” This is the most difficult step. Your friend will probably be angry with you, but know that in the end they will thank you. This is NOT something you can keep to yourself – it is too dangerous for your friend. Take the difficult step by telling a parent, trusted adult, teacher or guidance counselor.” — Kristin Rollins, Megan Project Educator, Safe Harbor

Q. Abuse is only when someone hits or hurts you, right?
A. “There are actually three types of abuse. Physical abuse is the most obvious – you see the black eyes, bruises, broken bones. However, sexual and psychological abuse is easily ignored. Sexual abuse is hard to identify because people think that in order for sexual abuse to occur it happens at the hands of a stranger or someone you do not want to be with. Sexual abuse can occur in consensual relationships. Even when you are with someone you want to be with, “no” still means “no”. Finally psychological abuse is the most easily dismissed, but psychological abuse (mental, verbal, emotional) is very dangerous. Psychological abuse always comes first. It is what convinces you to stay in the relationship, that you do not deserve any better or that there is no way out. Some examples of psychological abuse are: Isolates you from friends and family, is jealous when you talk to the opposite sex, makes you feel guilty for having your own interests, complain about or try to control what you wear, calls or texts excessively.” — Kristin Rollins, Megan Project Educator, Safe Harbor