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Domestic Violence In Teen Relationships - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Domestic Violence In Teen Relationships

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     In tonight's Healthier Me, domestic violence doesn't just affect adults; one in four teens in the US will be in a violent relationship, and one outreach group says less than half of teens in abusive relationships will talk about it.

     Elizabeth Billingsley talked with an expert about how to recognize the warning signs.

     Through the magic of texting, tweeting, and tagging, today's teens are in constant communication with friends and their boyfriends or girlfriends.

     But when does the contact turn into control -- and cause for concern? Christine Kobie, a teen community educator, teaches teens about unhealthy relationships. She weighed in on when contact crosses the line into control and abuse. By her definition, a relationship becomes abusive when its interactions become "centered around maybe fear; [for example,] I have to answer the phone because I'm afraid not to, versus I want to answer the phone because I want to take the call."

     Kobie says teens often get the wrong message from role models, parents, and friends; teens often equate jealousy with romance, and that can become unhealthy.

     To counteract messages like that, Kobie explains, "we try to focus on respect in relationships, and what that looks like, and how to really deal with conflict in a respectful way... avoiding things like jealousy, being able to communicate, taking responsibility for our own feelings."

     Unlike adult domestic violence situations, Kobie says it's typically the young women who are the aggressors in teen relationships.

      Kobie points to teens giving up time with family and friends in favor of spending it with a boyfriend or girlfriend as a possible warning sign for abuse. "That's when that relationship will take a turn into a little bit more of an isolated event," she explains, "and one that tends to be dangerous."

     For parents or friends concerned about a teen's relationship, Kobie says it's good to start by asking questions without assuming, accusing, or setting strict rules. This is key, because, in Kobie's words, "we don't want to automatically go into telling them what's going on, but we want to empower them also."

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