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    Let’s Talk – Stop Teen Dating Violence

    by Ngozi Osuagwu, MD | February 25th, 2018

    Let’s Talk – Stop Teen Dating Violence

    About 1 in 10 teens who have been on a date have also been physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the last yearFebruary has been designated Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. You might ask why blog about this at the end of the month and not at the beginning of the month. The answer is that teen violence can occur at any time and this is just a reminder of how important it is to talk to our teens about what it means to be in a healthy relationship.

    Teen dating violence includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional/psychological abuse between teenage dating partners. We all have a responsibility to talk to our teens whether we are parents, grandparents,  aunts, uncles, mentors or friends. It is best to talk with teens before they start dating.

    Behaviors that raise a red flag1:

    • Excessive jealousy or insecurity
    • Invasion of your privacy
    • Unexpected bout of anger or rage
    • Unusual moodiness
    • Pressuring a partner into unwanted sexual activity
    • Blaming you for problems in the relationship and not taking any responsibility for the same
    • Controlling tendencies
    • Explosive temper
    • Preventing you from going out with or talking to other people
    • Constantly monitoring your whereabouts and checking to see what you are doing and who you are with
    • Falsely accusing you of things
    • Vandalizing or ruining your personal property
    • Taunting or bullying
    • Threatening or causing physical violence

    If you notice any of the above behaviors, it is important to get help immediately.

    Two years ago, I posted this letter.  It is a reminder that teen dating violence is serious and can have deadly consequences.

    Dear Nikki,

    This was a difficult letter to write, but I felt I had no choice. First, I want to say that I am truly sorry for your loss. I know that Cara was a good friend of yours. Her death was tragic, but we should use this time to pause and consider our current relationship.

    My sister has always said that we have been missing the point when we talk to young people. We focus on sex and the use of condoms and when to say no. We focus on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections especially HIV infection. She says it is important to have sex education but it equally important to talk about love education. WHAT DOES LOVE LOOK LIKE?

    Your friend Cara thought that she was in love and that her boyfriend loved her. She thought it was love because he did not want her to talk to anyone but him. Occasionally, she could hang out with her girlfriends but she was not allowed to talk with any guy without his permission. He wanted to be her only one. Oh yes, he bought her a lot of things. I know she never lacked for anything. I know he was always saying how much he loved her. If he could not have her, no one could. He wanted to be her sole provider. When she thought about going to college, he did not understand why. He was providing everything. He felt that there was nothing college could provide that he could not.  He was her main man and I believe she thought she was his main girl.

    Now look what happened. When she tried to end the relationship, he went crazy. She tried to get a restraining order and I believe she did but that did not prevent him from shooting her and then killing himself. Two young lives wasted. Nikki, what does love look like?

    I write because you have told me in the past that your boyfriend has hit you, but he really did not mean to hit you. He hit you because he was upset and you just happened to be around. You tell me he loves you but every time you ace your exam at school, he is never happy with your accomplishments. When you needed a car to travel to one of your chess tournaments, you could not find him so you had to forfeit the game.  You did not want to take a chance and get into another person’s car for fear that he would think that you were cheating on him. You rarely go out with your girlfriends. He even has you against your parents. Every night he calls you and says he loves you but is that really love.

    Nikki, I would rather have a man never say he loves me but his actions speak in such a way that the whole world knows that he loves me. I would want someone that tries his best to make me the best person that I could be and not feel threatened. I want someone who loves my family as much as he loves his family. I want someone that does not mind me getting compliments from people, because he is confident and knows that he has the best. I want someone that when he is angry, does not use me as the punching bag, but can resolve his issues without violence.  I want someone that also understands that we might grow apart for whatever reason and that is okay.

    I am your physician. I am not your parent. I probably need to focus on your physical health but we both know there is a powerful connection between physical and emotional health. I want to be clear with you, I am not telling or asking you to break up with your boyfriend. I am asking you to use Cara’s death as a wakeup call. A call that is asking you the following question-What does love look like?

    It is time that we teach our young people the meaning of love and respect. You can use this letter to start the conversation.

    For more information on teen dating violence, visit teendvmonth.org1  or

    National Dating Abuse Helpline and Love is Respect: 1-866-331-9474 or text 77054

    National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

    National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-657-HOPE (4673)

    National Sexual Violence Resource Center:


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