students in hallway

Special Problems For Teens Dealing With Abuse

While adolescents usually don’t face many of the difficulties confronting adult abused victims (like children, financial dependency, shared property and long-term victimization), they have their own set of problems.

  1. Peer Pressure: Pressures to be popular keep many teenagers trapped in abusive relationships. They often say that being alone is worse than being abused. Pressure to have unwanted sex is evident in both sexes.
  2. Lack of Control: Teenage victims are often reluctant to tell adults about abuse because they fear that adults, particularly parents, will take over and make decisions for them. The abuser’s control may be preferred to parental control. Ironically, a teenager often sees her/his abuser as the only one who treats her/him as an adult. Often adults fail to treat teenage abuse as serious or to recognize its danger. Courts that might deal severely with partner abuse in adults may treat adolescent abusers with lenience.
  3. Safety: Adolescents depend upon relationships within their own peer group and find it difficult to disengage from a violent partner who has access to them on a daily basis at school or in the community. Teenage victims seldom quit school, move away or seek refuge in a women’s shelter. Many service providers underestimate the seriousness of safety issues for teen victims.
  4. Poor Information: Teenagers are particularly susceptible to misinformation because their source of information is most often their peers. If an abusive partner is the only source of information about sexuality, a teenager may believe her/his sexual relationship is normal when actually it is abusive. Other myths, such as “women give sex, men take it”, “jealousy is a sign of love”, “women are meant to be slaves to their men”, are all reinforced by rock music and videos, films, television, advertising and so on.
  5. Low Self-Esteem: Both victims and abusers suffer from low self-esteem. Most adolescents are particularly vulnerable to feeling alone, with no one to talk to and with no one who understands their pain. A majority of teenagers in abusive dating relationships believe they will never be able to find another partner. Gang leaders thrive on these feelings of isolation and insecurity and offer a place of “belonging”.
  6. Lack of Community Supports: Dating abuse and violence continue to receive very little attention from community service providers and the legal system compared to wife assault. Many service providers cannot serve individuals under the age of sixteen, and few services exist to help teens deal with abuse issues. Although victims may be able to receive some advice from anonymous crisis lines dealing with physical or sexual abuse, there are virtually no services available for adolescent abusers.