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Bad Love Understanding a toxic relationship

By JACKIE JAHFETSON

Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — The teenage years are meant to be spent finding interests, exploring hobbies and mingling with peers. And sometimes those peers can turn into more than just a friend.

When teens begin dating, it can be exciting, fun and new. However, the threat of relationship violence exists even during the teenage years.

That’s why local authorities are educating the public on the issue of teen dating violence in observance of February being Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Due to this, the Michigan State Police released a collection of tips to help teens and parents recognize forms of dating violence.

“(We’re) trying to get the word out and make everyone aware of this … and to keep an eye out for it,” Chocolay Township Chief of Police Scott Jennings said. “It’s not OK to have these things happen and (people should) report it to us when it does.”

One in three high school students are involved in an abusive relationship, and 43% of college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors, according to loveisrespect.org.

The Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center defines teen dating violence as the act or threat of violence by one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within a dating relationship. This includes forms of sexual, verbal, emotional, financial or digital abuse.

Signs that indicate your partner is abusive include: anger management issues; acts out in a physical way by throwing objects and hitting things; exhibits extreme jealousy, controlling behavior, quick involvement, unpredictable mood swings, alcohol or drug use, hypersensitivity and/or is verbally abusive; cruel to animals and/or children, threats of violence; uses force during an argument or your partner is always blaming others for their problems and feelings.

“Some people do strange things to love. People try to control people, that’s probably the worst thing that could happen and that’s what folks should be on the lookout for as far as dating (goes),” Jennings said. “If someone is controlling you, something’s not right.”

It’s important teens watch for red flags in the early stages of a relationship, Jennings said, noting that the biggest thing to look for is a partner’s mood swings.

Warning signs include a partner checking your cell phone or email without permission, extreme jealousy, insecurity, an explosive temper, isolating you from family or friends, possessiveness, controlling your daily life or physically hurting you in any way.

“I would suggest reaching out to your parents and if that doesn’t work, reach out to a trusted adult in school. There’s plenty of resources, reach out to the police department,” Jennings said. “… We just want to help and make sure nobody gets hurt.”

Michigan State Police Trooper Stacy Rasanen said parents can look for these signs as a way to detect whether their child is in a healthy relationship. Furthermore, parents can model a healthy relationship by exemplifying that themselves.

“You want to make sure they have a healthy dating relationship where somebody is not trying to trick them or entice them into doing things that they wouldn’t normally do,” Rasanen said. “You want to make sure that they don’t isolate you from your family or friends. Also, they shouldn’t be in a relationship where there’s arguments or threats of violence.”

Beyond in-person interactions, it’s also important to use caution online when dealing with a significant other or potential romantic partner.

While online dating can be popular, Rasanen said it’s not a good idea for teens to get involved with online dating sites, as there can be harmful consequences.

It’s important to be careful with what teens post online, especially with how dangerous sharing their location status can be, as this can lead to stalking and other violent acts, she said.

She also emphasized that it’s never a good idea to send explicit photos, videos or “sexts” to a significant other because there’s no way of knowing who might eventually receive that information.

Overall, Jennings and Rasanen encouraged people experiencing any form of abuse to reach out to a trusted person or entity for help immediately.

“It’s violent and we don’t need to have any more violence in our world,” Jennings said. “We all need to respect each other, respect each other’s property as well as self and … get along to survive as a group of humans rather than trying to be more powerful over someone.”

To learn more, visit loveisrespect.org. If you are in an abusive relationship, talk to a parent, counselor, teacher, police officer or contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline at 866-331-9474.

Jackie Jahfetson can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is jjahfetson@miningjournal.net.