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Domestic violence among teens

Being aware of the signs of an abusive relationship and focusing on healthy ones were two of the main topics at the Teen Summit sponsored by the Crenshaw County Domestic Violence Task Force.

The program was held at the Luverne United Methodist Church in the Dei Center on Oct. 25. Jeannie Gibson, chairman of the CCDVTF, welcomed everyone to the program.

Brent Cosby, a 1990 Luverne High School alumnus, was the guest speaker. Cosby had been speaking to students in area schools about domestic violence and healthy vs. unhealthy relationships.

Cosby said that unhealthy choices could be anything from alcohol to car racing, to junk food and cigarettes.

“If our mind and body are not healthy, then we can’t make good decisions,” he said. “You should associate yourself with people who like and respect you, not gossip about you.”

Cosby explained that if someone tries to judge, criticize, or tease you, that is just one form of trying to gain control.

“We need friends who allow us to change and grow, and that includes making mistakes and forgiving you—in other words, real friends accept you as you are,” he said.

Some signs of an abusive relationship, according to Cosby, include the following: feeling afraid of your partner/parent much of the time; avoiding certain topics out of fear of angering your partner; if your partner yells or humiliates you in public; if he/she threatens to hurt you, kill you, or commit suicide if you leave; sees you as his/her property or as a sex object; destroys your personal belongings, acts excessively jealous and possessive, or keeps you from seeing your friends and family.

“People don’t speak up, and that’s the problem,” he said. “Friends need to speak up if they see signs of abuse in their friends.”

When it comes to our young people, adults should look for physical signs of injury, failing grades or dropping out of school, use of drugs/alcohol, changes in mood/personality, or becoming withdrawn.

“If you’re not careful, an abusive guy will try to trap you young ladies with a pregnancy,” Cosby said. “And we make excuses for them because the girls will say they ‘love’ him—that’s not real love—the guys need to step up and say that’s not how you treat a lady.”

Alexis Curry, a sophomore at Luverne High School, said that she has witnessed abusive relationships among her peers.

“I’ve seen it a lot at school,” Curry said. “Boys will push girls into lockers like they own them—it’s not a good thing to experience—some girls love the boy so much, they won’t let him go, so they just put up with it.”

But Curry admitted that male/female abuse was not the only type of abuse among her peers.

“Guys will bully other guys at school,” she said. “I saw some guys throw one boy in a trash can just to bully him—it’s a different kind of control.”

Michelle Mansmann, a teacher at Highland Home School, said that she has noticed a growing trend in girls being the aggressor as opposed to the male in the relationship.

“I’ve seen girls being very demanding of the boys’ attention,” she said. “They want to be the focus of attention all the time, but the reality is that this behavior can be found in all ages, both male and female.”

For more information about domestic violence or signs of an abusive relationship, visit www.seeitandstopit.org and www.safeandsecure.org. Also, the Crenshaw County Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-650-6522.