Tough time for teens

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE-Idaho -- Teen dating violence can occur for many different reasons and can happen in many different ways. As with most crimes, the perpetrators seek out opportunities to target unknowing victims and attempt to take advantage of them. A lack of relationship experience can make teens an easy target.

"Teens rarely have defined boundaries," said Captain David Snowden, 366th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program officer.

At such a young and impressionable age, they're still trying to figure out who they are.

Not only are some teens willing to break their already fragile boundaries; but they can also be in a state of denial. 

Due to the craving of acceptance, some may see the abuse as something they can forgive and forget, explained Christin Moore, former victim.

"I stayed because I thought he would change," she said. "I didn't think it was as bad as it really was, I didn't want to accept the truth."

Not only can some victims be in a state of denial, but they can also be too afraid to tell anyone.

For many teenagers it can be very difficult to come out and talk to someone about dating violence. At an age where peer pressure is overwhelming, they are often
worried about how they will be looked at by others.

"Teens are going to wonder: 'Is this normal? If not, do I want to be the person who stands out? So do I tell anybody?,'" Snowden explained.

Despite many teenagers being wary of telling anyone, there are warning signs others can spot.

Teen dating violence can include control of a social circle, intimidation, as well as emotional, verbal and physical abuse, explained Darin Gere, 366th MDG Family Advocacy Program treatment manager.

"Sudden changes in mood, secrecy in a relationship and isolation are all warning signs," he said.

Snowden and Gere both encourage parents to get involved in their children's lives and develop healthy relationships which can help lower the risks of teenagers getting into violent relationships.

"Parents need to not be afraid to parent," Gere said, "They're kids and they need parents; don't let a secret life develop."

Not all teens are going to open up to their parents despite how healthy the relationship is.

"If you're a parent, by nature, you're uncool," Gere said. "Deal with it."

Snowden encourages teens to find people they trust if they don't feel comfortable going to their parents about dating issues, whether it be a teacher, counselor, or even a religious leader.

"Find the adult you can trust and talk to them about it," Gere said.

The goal of talking to somebody is to let out the secret and break free of the violent relationship.

"The secret is the big weapon in this, [it's] got to be broken," Gere said.

After telling a few trusted adults about what was going on in her relationship, Moore said they talked her into leaving and helped her along the way.

"I was relieved," she said. "I felt like I lifted a weight off my shoulders."

Her advice to other teens in violent relationships is to get out as soon as they find the courage too.

Gere encourages young teens to value themselves and to only accept healthy relationships.

"Really know your worth; know your self-esteem; see how valuable you really are," he said.

Both Snowden and Gere hope outsiders can respect and encourage teenagers that choose to find their voice and build up the courage to put a stop to teen dating violence.