Police and social agencies saw a rise in reports of relationship violence in teenage relationships this year and are worried about the trend.
While no hard statistics are available, both Marie Mansfield with St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF) and school resources officer for St. Albert, Const. Dave Henry said more issues have been coming forward.
Mansfield said SAIF was receiving a lot of calls from worried parents looking for help.
“We did see an increase of moms calling for their daughters,” she said. “There is a feeling of helplessness as an outsider. You don’t really know where to go.”
SAIF doesn’t offer counselling for youth victims, but Mansfield said they welcome the calls and can help victims find help.
Henry, who works out of Bellerose and Paul Kane high schools, said he has also noticed more reports coming forward.
“I am seeing a lot more of it. I am seeing guys being more aggressive.”
Henry said he has trouble pinpointing a cause for the increase, but alcohol and drugs are certainly part of the problem.
Mansfield said the calls have started to slow a little recently, but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.
“Domestic violence is underreported to begin with and especially around youth because there is that shame and they don’t want to tattle.”
Mansfield said the problem affects as many as one in three girls and there are a lot of warning signs people should be aware of.
Young women who come home with strange bruises, change their style of dress or have boyfriends who call constantly could be involved in an abusive relationship.
She said it is also worrying when a woman pulls back or isolates herself, because both domestic and relationship violence ultimately work toward isolating the victim.
“If they don’t want to see their friends or they don’t talk to their friends, it generally implies that he is telling her who she can and can not see.”
She said high school exerts a lot of pressure on young women and that pressure can make coming forward about an abusive relationship difficult.
“Girls are taught that you need to be in a relationship and that if you are not, there is something wrong with you especially in high school. It is about status.”
Henry said he finds when he confronts girls he suspects are in an abusive relationship, they are often very defensive about it, which can be another flag.
“They give me this little string to pull on and that is when I usually find out more.”
Mansfield said a good way to prepare young women for relationships is to stop them from thinking of gender relationships in stereotypical ways.
“Girls are taught to be passive and pretty and quiet and boys are taught to be tough and strong and to not show emotion,” she said. “If we can shift our values and beliefs about what is acceptable and what it not acceptable we can address a lot of this.”
Pullng back from friends
Change in style of dress
Constant calling or text messaging
Sexual Assault centre (24 hours) 780-423-4121
Kids Help Line (24 hours) 1-800-668-6868
Family violence line 310-1818 (toll free)