The situation is painful to contemplate: A teenage girl is abused by her boyfriend and doesn’t know how to find a way out.
The pain strikes the parents too, once they learn of their daughter’s suffering and fear.
Recent reporting by The World-Herald’s Maggie O’Brien explained the disturbing frequency with which this problem weighs on teenage girls in the Omaha area.
The rate of abuse among teens is thought to be around three times that for adults, Amy Richardson, executive director of the Women’s Center for Advancement, formerly the YWCA, said in O’Brien’s article.
When RESPECT, an area theater group that focuses on dating violence and bullying, surveyed around 800 Nebraska and Iowa teens, around one in five respondents said they were in an abusive relationship.
Domestic violence in teen relationships isn’t confined to any particular racial category or income level, The World-Herald reporting found, and even teens who seem outwardly confident may be suffering at the hands of an abusive boyfriend or girlfriend.
In the worst situations, abusive situations in teen relationships result in death. “Each year in Douglas County, two to four domestic violence victims die at the hands of their tormentors,” O’Brien reported.
Although the vast majority of those victims are adults, in some cases the abuse takes the lives of teenage girls. One case involved a 16-year-old Benson High School sophomore who was choked to death in May 2012 by her boyfriend. He has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.
There are no easy solutions to situations in which teen girls so often are reluctant to confide in parents or other adults about the abuse, but the World-Herald article pointed to positive ways forward.
Parents can educate their daughters about what makes for a healthy dating relationship. Girls should be encouraged to turn to parents or other adults if an abusive situation arises. Teachers can be trained to watch for warning signs such as unexplained bruises or changes in a teen’s behavior, and parents can be attentive for such signs, too.
Help is available through the Women’s Center for Advancement (WCA) hotline at (402) 345-7273; for Spanish speakers, (402) 672-7118.
The WCA’s Green Dot program specializes in domestic violence problems involving college campuses.
Additional help can be found at the websites for the Domestic Violence Council (dvccomaha.org) and RESPECT (respect2all.org).
It’s dismaying to think of teenage girls who are suffering violence at the very time when the world should be opening up to them in all its excitement and promise.
But we can take comfort that help is available. So are sound ideas about how everyone can pitch in to help.