In recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, Pacific Clinics Social Worker Trishka Lampkin shares seven warning signs of teen dating violence, both before abuse occurs and signs that it is occurring, that should not be ignored. Lampkin is an expert on the subject from her work as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and because she experienced abuse first-hand when she was a teenager.
1. Acts of control. An act of control might include a potential abuser limiting or monitoring who their partner speaks to and/or has relationships with; commenting on or dictating clothing choices; searching their partner’s cell phone; or monitoring their social media platforms.
2. Signs of isolation. The partner who is being abused will begin to cut ties with friends and may attend family gatherings less and less frequently. Also, if the abuser sees someone who is supportive, he or she will attempt to push that person out of their partner’s life.
3. Acts of manipulation. Manipulation can take many forms, but one of the most dangerous forms is when one partner threatens to harm themself if the other leaves or convinces their partner they will have no one else if they leave.
4. Presence of sexual blackmail or “revenge porn.” This is when the abusing partner shares private and compromising pictures or videos without their partner’s consent in order to shame and manipulate them. This category can also include a person getting coerced into engaging into additional or more frequent sexual acts because they have engaged in one or two instances of that act previously.
5. Sexual/financial exploitation. “A lot of what we’re seeing are young people being sexually exploited by either adult males or by what we call ‘Romeo pimps.’ This is where the abusive person suggests to their partner that they date outside of the relationship for money or material items,” says Lampkin. “Their intention is never to do it once or twice, but many times. It’s a seduction. Sometimes there are female exploiters as well, called ‘recruiters.’ Exploitation can also look like gift giving after the abuser has done something bad.”
6. Forms of entrapment. It is not unheard of for a male partner to try and impregnate a partner as a form of entrapment. This can include having unprotected sex without their partner’s knowledge or coercing or shaming their partner to not use protection.
7. Actual physical intimidation or harm. Typically, if the abused partner decides to leave or push back against other forms of abuse or control, the abuser will try to gain control through physical abuse or intimidation.
Lampkin encourages mental health service providers and clinicians to continue to be aware of these signs, to formulate a safety plan with the victim and to continue to be supportive and provide resources even if the client is not ready or wanting to remove themself from the situation. “It’s important they know they are not alone,” she says.
If you or someone you know has exhibited signs of abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) which is available 24/7 and offers services in more than 200 languages. You can also text “START” to 88788.