Nancy Diaz, a domestic violence consultant who has provided services to Outreach in New York City, said that when she explains verbal abuse to teens, many think it's just normal conversation. Often their own mothers, who may be young, have spoken to them in just that way. "It's the cycle of violence," Diaz said.
If a teen girl slaps a teen boy, the boy often says it's not abuse because it doesn't hurt, but Diaz explains that it is. She said that some gangs initiate girls by forcing them to have sex with all of the gang's members. "That's rape, but the girls don't think of it as rape," Diaz said.
For parents, protection starts with knowing the person their teen is dating. "Invite them in, or offer to drive them somewhere," Evans said. "Just make sure you know who they're connecting with."
Discovering that abuse is occurring can be hard, but "watch out for social isolation, withdrawal from friends and activities," Evans said. "Look for sores, bruises or scratches, and check out what they're doing on social media like Facebook and Tumblr."
Diaz said that a girl's sudden change in the way she dresses also could be a sign of abuse. She might be covering hickeys, or her boyfriend might want her to dress differently so that she doesn't attract other boys.
"Are they home earlier? Constantly texting?" Diaz asked. "I've heard of a boyfriend who wanted his girlfriend to have the webcam on her computer on all the time so he could see what she was doing. That's stalking."
Both experts recommend being upfront with your kids, but not confrontational. "Say, 'I've noticed that you're home a lot more. How is John treating you?'" suggested Diaz. "Have a conversation and try not to judge. Let your teen know that they can come and talk to you no matter what."
And Evans stressed the importance of keeping communication lines open. "The more you talk to your teen and are open with them, they'll kn
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