Abuse is real and more prevalent in our world than most people know

Purple ribbon take a stand against domestic violenceApproximately two in ten girls say a dating partner has physically or sexually abused them.

Here follows a real story of teen dating violence, told by a warrior mum who kept fighting to keep her daughter safe. For confidentiality reasons, we changed the names

*Sarah was 19 years old and a first-year university student. She met fellow student *Kyle, and very soon, he convinced her to date “exclusively”.

Sarah:He made me feel beautiful. He became my best friend.”

Kyle was very charming and two years older than Sarah. What began as an exciting new relationship with a good-looking guy quickly unravelled into verbal and physical abuse, isolation from her friends and family, and torment whenever she spent time away from him—even to go to uni.

A mere week into the relationship, Kyle wanted to have sex with Sarah. She told Kyle that she wasn’t ready; his patience ran out.

Sarah: “He didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day. He began pressuring me and threatening to leave”

Kyle made Sarah feel wrong about everything. He got mad at her for what she wore, for talking to other guys, even a friend. Everything was her fault.

The first crisis occurred at a University Ball function. Sarah was so excited about the evening; she chose her dress carefully and thought it would be a fun evening with friends. They had too much to drink and started to argue. Kyle berated her for staring at another guy during a slow dance.

Sarah: “I walked around downtown sobbing. And that’s when Kyle decided we would have sex for the first time.

He didn’t ask. He didn’t let me say no. Since I had messed up and looked at another guy, I owed him. That night, he took something away from me I will never get back.

Whenever Kyle wanted to have sex, we would. I was too scared to say no. He was shoving me into walls, desks, whatever, then saying it was a joke. It hurt. He’d yell at me over the phone and in front of other people. He’d grab me by the shoulders and shake me, and I’d ache for hours. He’d put both hands around my neck and squeeze. I’d cover the bruises so no one could see them, including myself, but they were there.”

We noticed the changes in Sarah’s behaviour and was concerned about her mood swings. Their constant arguments on the phone were especially problematic. We had endless conversations with Sarah about Kyle’s controlling behaviour and told her to stop dating him. Still, she protected him, often the case with young girls who have no idea what a relationship is.

It can happen to anyone, falling victim to an abusive boyfriend if young girls do not get the facts about dating violence.

They didn’t have any contact for two weeks. When the next semester at university started, Kyle got control again through pressure, flaunting the no-contact, zero-tolerance rules established by us. He has made up fabricated stories to our daughter — that we are pushy, intrusive, over-protective and jealous of our daughter’s closeness with him and his family.

My husband and I have always found his behaviour to be selfish, sexist, uncaring, disrespectful, and cruel. When we talk to her about what we were seeing, her reaction was withdrawn and non-committal. She was very loving but said we had blown it out of proportion. She seemed to be starting to remove herself from me in particular.

We warned her again, but this time, she vehemently denied everything, said she was happy, she accused us of having it in for Kyle and mostly refused even to hear our reasons for concern.

We were in a catch 22 situation. Sarah has drawn back from us even more, was less communicative and less in contact. She began to disobey us so they could see each other every day.

Sarah: “Of course, we got caught. That didn’t stop us, either. Using friends, we’d FaceTime every day. And I cried through every call because he’d yell at me for not texting him enough during the day.”

As parents, we realised there is not much else that we or anyone can do at this stage other than, whenever possible, to monitor the situation. We fought against the increasing estrangement of our daughter from us her family, giving her a bit of relief from the relentless abuse. We made sure to let her know we are there for her, and she can phone us anytime if she feels unsafe or threatened.

Taking her denials as a cue, we didn’t mention the word ‘abuse’. We tried to keep it calm, and at no time did we criticise Kyle as a person – only his behaviour.

Sarah: “To be honest, I was always safety planning when I was with Kyle. I constantly managed ways to keep myself as safe and sane as possible whilst also dealing with his tactics to distort my reality and perspective. Immersing myself in my studies was a way to escape reality. I was looking forward to being independent. Kyle didn’t like the fact that I was planning to have a career. He told me that if he marries me that I can forget about having a job. He wants a stay at home wife; that was the final straw for me. I ended our relationship. He kept bugging me, but I refused to take his calls. I had the support of my family, reassuring me that I was making the right decision.

I still struggle. I have bad memories of that relationship. I have anxiety attacks and nights when I can’t sleep.

If anyone feels they are in an unhealthy relationship or has been in one, please tell someone you trust. If you feel like a friend is in an unhealthy relationship, please tell someone you trust. Don’t be afraid to get help. Abuse is real and more prevalent in our world than most people know.”

Teenage student hugged by parents