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Talk to your kids about dating violence

— In this community, you’d think dating violence would be an all-too-familiar topic of conversation.

Last fall, Jenni-Lyn Watson was murdered by her ex-boyfriend because she refused to stay in an unhealthy relationship. She did everything she was supposed to do – she severed ties with him, she kept her family informed and involved in the situation, her parents intervened on her behalf. In an attempt to be mature and finally end the relationship with Steven Pieper with one final meeting, Jenni-Lyn lost her life.

But incidents of dating violence are still seen as isolated. Sadly, they’re not. According to studies by Liz Claiborne Inc., a corporate leader in intimate partner violence prevention, one in three teens will experience some form of abusive behavior in a relationship. Meanwhile, 48 percent of college students report the same thing, as do one in four adults.

Abusive behavior exists on a spectrum. Because of this, it can be hard to tell when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Use these warning signs of abuse to see if your relationship, or your teen’s, is going in the wrong direction:

Checking your cell phone or email without permission

Constantly putting you down

Extreme jealousy or insecurity

Explosive temper

Isolating you from family or friends

Making false accusations

Mood swings

Physically hurting you in any way

Possessiveness

Telling you what to do

If this is happening, it’s imperative that you end the relationship or help your teen to do so. For tips on how to safely end the relationship, visit loveisrespect.org or call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474.

The Watsons did everything right, and they still lost their daughter. Talk to your kids. Find out about their relationships. Make sure they’re safe. Don’t let your child become another statistic.

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