Parents of teenagers urged to recognize warning signs of dating violence

Most parents assume they would know if their teenager was a victim of dating violence, but many can't name the warning signs, according to an outreach group in the Kennebecasis Valley.

43% of all reported incidents of dating violence happen to people 15 to 24 years old

Gail Leadlay, a member of KV Domestic Violence Outreach, is shown here with her family at a memorial bench dedicated to her mother-in-law, Alice Leadlay, who was a victim of domestic violence. (Gail Leadlay/Submitted)

Intimate partner violence doesn't discriminate based on age.

Alice Leadlay, Gail Leadlay's mother-in-law, was 81 when she died after being tied up and gagged by her husband in their Rothesay home.

"A lot of people said it can't be happening here, that it doesn't happen with us, it doesn't happen in this community," said Leadlay, a member of the newly formed KV Domestic Violence Outreach. 

"We had to stop and say, yes, it did."

Teenagers as young as 13 are reporting their first encounters with controlling, abusive behaviours, said Leadlay.

"It can happen to anybody, at any age," she said.

Teenagers are the focus of a pair of meetings next week in the Kennebecasis Valley that will highlight the warning signs of dating violence.

Isolation from friends and family is one of the early signs of teen dating violence. (Shutterstock)

According to the violence prevention group, one research study found 82 per cent of parents who were surveyed felt confident they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating abuse. However, 58 per cent could not correctly identify all the warning signs.

"If a teen becomes physically agitated, unreasonably upset about giving up their cellphone at night, that's something to watch for," Leadlay said.

"You might notice they cry frequently, they're nervous or upset because they want to please their partner, or if the person they are dating seems to isolate them from activities and friends."

Many cases of intimate partner violence isn't physical but emotional, verbal or financial. And Statistics Canada research has found 43 per cent of all reported incidents of dating violence happen to people 15 to 24 years old.

Connecting with youth

Healthy relationships is part of the school curriculum in New Brunswick, Leadlay said, but the teaching doesn't go into great depth.

The idea behind the Kennebecasis Valley sessions is to connect with youth before they wind up in a dangerous situation.

"We know that teens grow up to be the abuser or the abused, so we know that helping people in that situation doesn't necessarily help reduce the incidents," said Leadlay. "So we're looking at where it starts."

Last year, Kennebecasis regional police and members of KV Domestic Violence Outreach handed out healthy relationship information pamphlets at the two area high schools.

"One person in particular, I went to give it to a girl and her boyfriend grabbed her hand away and said, 'You don't need that,'" said Leadlay.

"Hopefully, we'll start making a difference where we can see a decrease in that statistics."

The information meetings will be held at Hampton High School on Feb. 27 and Rothesay High School on Feb. 28. Both events will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and will discuss methods of preventing teen dating violence, the warning signs and services available in the community. 

About the Author

Sarah Trainor

Reporter

Sarah Trainor is a reporter, and news reader for Information Morning Saint John. She has worked for the CBC since 2005.

With files from Information Morning Saint John