CHARLOTTE, N.C. – October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police responded to more than 36,000 domestic violence calls last year, but a closer look at the statistics should have parents especially concerned. One in three teens are experiencing some sort of abusive behaviors, and one in 10 teens have been pushed or slammed against a wall or hit by their partner.
So what is a parent to do in these situations?
“I think it’s like any first love, you’re swept off your feet so you ignore different signs,” said Kriss Anne Carlstrom.
She said she ignored the signs of abuse for five years.
“Initially, it was more just controlling you know,” Carlstrom said. “Jealousy, little things — very subtle.”
Eventually, the man she thought she would marry broke her nose. That was it for Carlstrom, who said enough is enough.
Now, Carlstrom is part of the Domestic Violence Health Care project at Carolinas Medical Center, helping victims who end up in the emergency room.
“Abusive relationships, they’re learned behaviors that start in the teenage years,” said Alex Pyun, who works to help teens and parents understand the signs before it’s too late.
One sign is excessive texting.
“If someone is constantly texting you, ‘hey, where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing?’ It’s not necessarily because they really care about you,” Pyun said. “It might be because they don’t trust you.”
Other signs include dressing differently or withdrawing from friends and activities, and making excuses for a boyfriend or girlfriend’s behavior.
“I’m always talking about appropriate relationships and I think you need that connection with your children,” Pyun said.
Both agree it’s important to talk with your kids about what is and isn’t appropriate in a relationship.
Experts say instead, talk about the behaviors, not the person. You’re also encouraged to show support, avoid ultimatums, and decide on the next steps together.
“It comes down to respect,” Pyun explained.
The experts recommend monitoring your teens’ digital interactions. Teens can talk to peer advocates 24/7 through the Love is Respect phone line. The number is 866-331-9474.