I never imagined I would be juggling time between school, counseling, and court dates my junior year in high school. I was only sixteen, and I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship until it ended.

During the summer, I started dating a guy I worked with. It was a small town and I thought I knew enough about him to judge whether he was okay or not. He went to church every Sunday, he did well in school and was polite to my family. It was my first relationship and the first couple of months were great. He would tell me how all his friends thought we were a perfect couple, and at first, I thought we were too.

Three months in the abuse started. He isolated me from my friends and family, he accused me of cheating, and he called me nasty things no one should ever be called. He would push me around whenever he was displeased with me. I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and alone. No one, including myself, knew how bad the relationship was until I tried to leave. It was my first relationship; I didn’t understand this wasn’t how break ups work. He started stalking me, verbally harassing me, and after multiple death threats to me and my loved ones, the court dates began.

I thought my experience was uncommon, but dating violence is frighteningly common and it doesn’t always look how you think it does. 94% of 16-19 year old victims of dating violence are victimized by their boyfriend or girlfriend. It does not happen to just adults or females; it can happen to anyone. Sometimes, abuse is not obvious; it includes behaviors that don’t leave visible marks like manipulation, or isolation. It is a hidden danger where no one asks to be the victim. Abusers can go to church, have good grades and can even be friendly to others. Everyone should be informed, supported and treated with respect.

Talk to your teens about healthy relationships before they start dating. If you are worried about your teen, call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.

Submitted by: Halle Brunzel, Burnett Medical Center

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