​​dba ThriveSaves Lives: Transitional Housing & Holistic Services for Domestic Violence Victims & Survivors

Knowing or even suspecting that your child is in an unhealthy relationship can be both frustrating and frightening. But as a parent, you’re critical in helping your child develop healthy relationships and can provide life-saving support if they are in an abusive relationship. Remember, dating violence occurs in both same-sex and opposite-sex couples and any gender can be abusive.

You can look for some early warning signs of abuse that can help you identify if your child is in an abusive relationship before it’s too late. Some of these signs include:
Your child’s partner is extremely jealous or possessive.
You notice unexplained marks or bruises.
Your child’s partner emails or texts excessively.
You notice that your child is depressed or anxious.
Your child stops participating in extracurricular activities or other interests.
Your child stops spending time with other friends and family.
Your child’s partner abuses other people or animals.
Your child begins to dress differently.

As a parent, your instinct is to help your child in whatever way you can. This need to help can drive you to quickly react, but sometimes what feels like the right plan of action could stop the conversation before it begins. Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying to help a child who is experiencing dating abuse:

When talking to your teen, be supportive and non-accusatory. Let your child know that it’s not their fault and no one “deserves” to be abused. If they do open up, it’s important to be a good listener. Your child may feel ashamed of what’s happening in their relationship. Many teens fear that their parents may overreact, blame them or be disappointed. Others worry that parents won’t believe them or understand. If they do come to you to talk, let it be on their terms, and meet them with understanding, not judgment.

Believe that they are being truthful. Your child may be reluctant to share their experiences in fear of no one believing what they say. Showing skepticism could make your teen hesitant to tell you when things are wrong and drive them closer to their abuser. Offer your unconditional support and make sure that they know you believe they are giving an accurate account of what is happening.

Let your teen know that you are concerned for their safety by saying things like: “You don’t deserve to be treated like this;” “You deserve to be in a relationship where you are treated with respect” and “This is not your fault.” Point out that what’s happening isn’t “normal.” Everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship.

When talking about the abuse, speak about the behaviors you don’t like, not the person. For example, instead of saying, “She is controlling” you could say, “I don’t like that she texts you to see where you are.” Remember that there still may be love in the relationship — respect your child’s feelings. Also, talking badly about your son or daughter’s partner could discourage your teen from asking for your help in the future.

Resist the urge to give an ultimatum (for example, “If you don’t break up with them right away, you’re grounded/you won’t be allowed to date anyone in the future.”) You want your child to truly be ready to walk away from the relationship. If you force the decision, they may be tempted to return to their abusive partner because of unresolved feelings. Also, leaving is the most dangerous time for victims. Trust that your child knows their situation better than you do and will leave when they’re ready.

Educate yourself on dating abuse. Help your child identify the unhealthy behaviors and patterns in their relationship. Discuss what makes a relationship healthy. With your teen, identify relationships around you (within your family, friend group or community) that are healthy and discuss what makes those relationships good for both partners.

When you’re talking to your teen about a plan of action, know that the decision has to come from them. Ask what ‘next steps’ they would like to take. If they’re uncomfortable discussing this with you, help them find additional support. Suggest that they reach out to a peer advocate through loveisrespect’s phone line, online chat and text messaging service where teens can talk with peer advocates 24/7. To call, dial 1-866-331-9474, chat via our website or text “loveis” to 22522.

It’s never too early to talk to your child about healthy relationships and dating violence. Starting conversations — even if you don’t think your child is dating — is one of the most important steps you can take to help prevent dating violence. Here are some sample questions to start the conversation:
Are any of your friends dating? What are their relationships like? What would you want in a partner?
Have you witnessed unhealthy relationships or dating abuse at school? How does it make you feel? Were you scared?
Do you know what you would do if you witnessed or experienced abuse?
Has anyone you know posted anything bad about a friend online? What happened afterwards?
Would it be weird if someone you were dating texted you all day to ask you what you’re doing?
Need more tips to get started? Here are some other ways you can prepare to talk to your child about healthy and unhealthy relationships:

To get the facts before talking to your teen or 20-something. Start with the information and resources on loveisrespect.org.
Provide your child with examples of healthy relationships, pointing out unhealthy behavior. Use examples from your own life, television, movies or music.
Ask questions and encourage open discussion. Make sure you listen to your son or daughter, giving them a chance to speak. Avoid analyzing, interrupting, lecturing or accusing.
Keep it low key. Don’t push it if your child is not ready to talk. Try again another time.
Be supportive and nonjudgmental so they know they can come to you for help if their relationship becomes unhealthy in the future.
Admit to not knowing the answer to a particular question. This response builds trust.
Reinforce that dating should be fun! Stress that violence is never acceptable.
Discuss the options your child has if they witness dating abuse or experience it themselves.
Remind your son or daughter they have the right to say no to anything they’re not comfortable with or ready for. They also must respect the rights of others.
If your child is in a relationship that feels uncomfortable, awkward or frightening, assure them they can come to you. And remember — any decisions they make about the relationship should be their own.
Find ways to discuss gender equality at A Call to Men.
Contact Break the Cycle to find out if there are dating violence prevention programs in your community. If not, work with Break the Cycle to bring abuse prevention to your local school or community group.


College-age women are at high risk for all forms of violence against women. Sexual assault, domes- tic violence and stalking have been and continue to be pervasive problems on campuses nationwide. Indeed, the statistics are frightening:
●Sexual assault is the second most common violent crime committed on college campuses today.
●A recent National Institute of Justice study found that approximately one in 20 college women (5 percent) are victims of rape or attempted rape each year.
●  The Bureau of Justice Statistics confirms that the highest rate of domestic violence applies to women ages 16 to 24
●According to the National Violence Against Women Survey, more than half of all stalking victims are between 18 and 29 years of age

These distressing findings are compelling many colleges and universities to address sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking on campus in a new way — to more openly acknowledge the problem, create a greater awareness of campus violence, improve their response to violent incidents, and provide stronger support to female students. Creating a safe campus environment presents a challenge to all institutions of higher learning, who are in a unique position to communicate to students that violence against women will not be tolerated. This critical “lesson” also carries with it an obligation — to use the educational arena to change the social norms that perpetuate violence against women.

Many myths surround the issue of violence against women on campus, and the perpetuation of these myths — especially those that excuse the perpetrator and blame the victim — reinforces behavior which contributes to sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. Separating the myths from the facts is an important first step in acknowledging the problem and working to eliminate it.

Myth: Sexual assault is an expression of passion and lust.
Fact: Sexual assault is a crime that uses power and control to dominate, humiliate and punish.

Myth: Women on college campuses do not have to worry about becoming victims of domestic violence.
Fact: Dating abuse is a problem on college campuses and often an indication of abuse in subsequent relationships and marriages.

Myth: Rape is an impulsive, uncon- trollable act of sexual gratification. Fact: Most rapes are planned and motivated by aggression, dominance and hatred, not sex.

Myth: If a woman is being stalked, and she just ignores the unwanted behavior, it will go away.
Fact: This is not necessarily the case. It is important to stop the stalker as soon as possible. The sooner action is taken, be it a police caution, warning or arrest, the greater the chance of stopping the stalking.

Myth: Rapists are strangers who hide in dark alleys waiting to attack women late at night.
Fact: Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. Rape can occur at any hour of the day, and half of all rapes occur in the victim’s residence.

Myth: Battered women can always leave — and the situation can’t be that bad, or they would.
Fact: It may be difficult for a woman to leave her partner. Women stay in violent relationships for both emo- tional and practical reasons, including love, economic dependence, fear of reprisal, social isolation, and shame.

Myth: Cyberstalkers are not dangerous. Fact: If a cyberstalker takes the harassment offline, a woman may begin to receive harassing snail mail or phone calls. In addition, the stalker may know where she lives.

Myth: Sexual harassment is a part of life. Such behavior is usually just harmless flirtation or a way to compli- ment a woman.

Fact: Sexual harassment is conduct that makes women (and men) feel uncomfortable, humiliated, distressed, or fearful. This behavior is both unacceptable and illegal.

Roughly 81 percent of on-campus assaults and 84 percent of off-campus assaults are not reported to police.22 One study revealed that fewer than 5 percent of completed and attempted rapes are reported: “Although exceptions exist, most sexual victimizations occur when college women are alone with a man they know, at night, and in the privacy of a residence. Most women attempt to take protective actions against their assailants, but are then reluctant to report their victim-ization to the police.”23 These figures correspond to national statistics that show rape or sexual assault are the violent crimes least often reported to law enforcement.24 The serious underreporting of violent crimes against women on campus suggests that the problem is undoubtedly more widespread than statistics reveal.

Women who have been victimized have many reasons for not reporting incidents of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking. They may:

● Consider the violent incident to be a private matter or not believe that their perpetrator’s behavior was criminal.

● Worry about being embarrassed if they report, or worse, fear re- prisals from their attacker for coming forward.

● Feel pressured by their peers to let the matter go, especially if the perpetrator is a well-known or popular member of the campus community.

● Not understand the legal definition of sexual assault or other violent behavior and are therefore reluctant.

to characterize their experience as a crime or label someone they know as a criminal.

In addition, female college students who are experiencing domestic violence may not see themselves as “battered women” and so may choose not to report abuse in their intimate relationships.26 And many victims/ survivors blame themselves for the assault. According to one recent survey of female college seniors, more than half of the women raped by force or threat of force felt some degree of self-blame.

All of these factors reinforce the need for colleges and universities to educate all students about what constitutes violence against women, the impor- tance of reporting violence on campus, and the availability of services for victims, including adjudi- cation. Administrators at institutions of higher learning must also foster trust among female students and establish a reputation for listening to victims, responding to their cases, and holding perpetrators accountable.

Recognize that gender violence is a men’s issue that affects women whom you care about.
Confront the abusive behavior of other males by not remaining silent.
Understand how your own attitudes and actions may perpetuate sexism and violence and work toward changing them.
Gently offer your support if you suspect that a woman close to you is being abused or has been sexually assaulted or stalked.
Respect women and treat them as equals.
Be an ally to women who are working to end all forms of gender violence.
Speak out against homo- phobia and gay-bashing.
Educate yourself and others about masculinity, gender inequality and the causes of gender violence.
Mentor and teach young boys about how to be men without degrading or abusing girls and women.
Refuse to purchase any magazines, videos or music that portray women in a degrading manner or include violence against women.

* These action steps were adapted from a pamphlet directed at young male athletes published by the Mentors in Violence Prevention Program (MVP), XXXX 2000. MVP focuses on athletes and sports in society. Student athletes are viewed not as potential rapists, but as empowered bystanders who can confront abusive peers.



Spiraling rates of elder mistreatment are reported by both practitioners and researchers. In a recent national study of Adult Protective Services (APS), typically the agency of first report concerning elder abuse, there were 253,421 reports of abuse of adults age 60+ or 832.6 reports for every 100,000 people over the age of 60 (Teaster, Dugar, Otto, Mendiondo, Abner, & Cecil, 2006). The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998) found that more than 500,000 persons aged 60+ were victims of domestic abuse and that an estimated 84% of incidents are not reported to authorities, denying victims the protection and support they need. Given the significant underreporting, the Senate Special Committee on Aging estimated that as many as five million older Americans may be victims of abuse, neglect, and/or exploitation every year. These vulnerable elders are subject to injury and to premature death (Lachs et al., 1998), often from caregivers and family members. Elder financial exploitation—commonly linked with other forms of abuse and neglect—threatens the health, dignity, and economic security of millions of older Americans. Elder abuse is estimated to cost Americans tens of billions of dollars annually in health care, social services, investigative and legal costs, and lost income and assets.

Elder abuse is any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person. It is generally divided into the following categories:

Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
Financial abuse is the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property, or resources.
Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her care giving responsibilities. Self-neglect is failure to provide for one’s own essential needs.

Although estimates vary, it is generally believed that 4-6% of the elderly are abused.

According to the National Incidence Study on Elder Abuse, approximately 450,000 elderly experienced abuse in 1996 nationwide. If self-neglect is included, the number is 551,000.

The personal losses associated with abuse can be devastating and include the loss of independence, homes, life savings, health, dignity, and security.

Victims of abuse have been shown to have shorter expectancies than non-abused older people.

Comijs, H.C., Pot, A.M., Smit, H.H., & Jonker, C., (1998). “Elder abuse in the community: Prevalence and consequences. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 46, 885-888.

Kivela, S.L., Kongas-Saviaro, P., Kesti, E., Pahkala, K. & Ijas, M. L. (1992). “Abuse in old age: Epidemiological data from Finland. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 4(3), 1-18.
Lachs M.S., et al.(1998). The mortality of elder mistreatment. Journal of the American Medical Association,280, 428-432.
National Center on Elder Abuse (1998). National elder abuse incidence study: Final report. Washington, DC: American Public Human Services Association in collaboration with Westat, Inc. Download the study.
Pillemer K., & Finkelhor D.(1988). The prevalence of elder abuse: A random sample survey. Gerontologist, 28, 51-57.
Podnieks, E., Pillemer, K., Nicholson, J., Shillington, T. & Frizzel, A. (1990). National survey on abuse of the elderly in Canada: Final report. Toronto: Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.

National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse
1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: (202) 464-9481
Fax: (202) 872-0057
Email: info@preventelderabuse.org