, Newburyport, MA


July 16, 2011

Teen dating abuse: A challenge for us all

As the details unfold of Lauren Astley's murder in Wayland, many of us are struggling to understand how this tragedy could have happened and what, if anything, could have been done to prevent it.

Until this case is presented in court, we will not know the facts and therefore cannot guess at what happened and why.

We can, however, look beyond this case to understand dating abuse in an effort to prevent it or intervene before another tragedy occurs.

While homicide is not common in teen dating relationships, various kinds of abuse are becoming increasingly more common among young people.

According to a Liz Claiborne and Family Violence Prevention Fund study, nearly one in three teens who have been in a serious relationship report experiencing physical harm, sexual abuse or threats of harm.

The same study states that one in three teens in a relationship were text-messaged up to 30 times in one hour by a partner wondering where they were, what they were doing and who they were with. The study also said that almost 70 percent of those teens' parents were not aware that this was happening.

Last month, I released a video that my office produced about teen dating abuse in an effort to help young people recognize the signs of abuse in a relationship. In the video, two young victims describe how the abuse started with jealousy, demands for more of their time and attention and needing to know where they were and who they were with. Both of these young women explain that they did not recognize this behavior as abuse.

We all need to better understand how abuse manifests itself in a teen dating relationship.

Abuse is not easy to spot, but there are some signs that could indicate when a relationship has become abusive. Typical signs of an abusive relationship are when a boyfriend or girlfriend:

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