Episode 28: "What Do I Do if I'm Afraid to Leave My Partner?"Support the show
Today, we’re talking about what teens can do if they are afraid to break up with their dating partners. This is Jessica Skultety, Community Outreach Associate at Safe+Sound Somerset, Somerset County New Jersey's lead domestic violence organization, providing services at no charge for survivors of dating and domestic abuse for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: What do I do if I’m afraid to leave my boy/girlfriend?
We get this question often, and we want teens to know that they are not alone, and help and hope are always available.
If you’re a friend of someone in an unhealthy or abusive relationship – this podcast is also for you. Since 1 out of 3 teens in America experience dating abuse before high school graduation, there’s a very high chance you will know someone going through this in your teen years – whether you know it or not at the time. Unfortunately, the chance that you will know someone as an adult is high as well, since 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience abuse from an intimate partner.
So, what can teens do if they are afraid to leave a relationship or break up? First of all, don’t leave alone – find support – you don’t have to do this by yourself. If you’re scared of your partner or their reaction, this is a huge warning sign. If there’s a trusted adult in your life, let them know what’s going on. We realize this can be hard to do but you might need an adult’s help. It could be a family member, coach, teacher, friend’s parent- anyone you trust.
Here’s why. When someone leaves an abusive relationship, they gain back some of the power and control they’ve lost to the abusive partner. At this point of leaving, the abusive partner, who has gained more power in the relationship, might try to get that power back through physical violence, blackmail, threats, stalking, and other actions. The risk for a rise in behavior goes up at this point. This is why it’s so important to get a trusted adult involved.
Some more things to think about when leaving a relationship where you feel unsafe:
Don’t be alone with your partner as you break up with them, do it in a public place.
Make it clear that you do not wish to be contacted again.
Document everything – write down when things happen, screenshot messages from your partner.
Also, let your friends know your wishes and boundaries, if you don’t want contact with your ex, let your friends know that you don’t want them pass messages back and forth or get involved with the break up except to support you.
Another thing you should do is create a personalized safety plan. A safety plan could include changing your passwords, create a password to communicate to your trusted adult when you feel unsafe or need their help, keeping a list of helpful phone numbers on you in addition to your restraining order, and much more. You can check our website at www.safe-sound.org for more information about teen safety planning.
In short, it’s good for everyone to know the warning signs of abuse so that they can reach out to the target safely, if possible, and offer help. We’ve previously explained ways to help a friend in a couple of our other Ask Ava podcasts, so make sure to go back and listen to those for the best ways to help a friend. And remember, dating abuse doesn’t just end suddenly when the relationship ends, so having a safety plan is important for that as well. Make sure to call 911 immediately in an emergency.
Text or call the Safe+Sound Somerset hotline for supportive listening, safety planning, and information at 866-685-1122. Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.