CRYSTAL LAKE – Molly Horton has heard enough stories from teenagers to understand the fact that one in three of them in the United States have reported being a victim of dating violence.
Horton, a children’s advocate at Turning Point of McHenry County, can recall the 16-year-old girl she counseled who had gotten back together with her boyfriend without her mom’s knowledge.
After the young couple fought, the boyfriend decided to announce that they had reunited by texting revealing photos of the girl to her mom.
A 19-year-old girl often attends Horton’s teen group to share stories like how her ex-boyfriend pushed her against the lockers at school while her friends stood idly by and watched.
The girl later would get an order of protection against the boyfriend, only to get back together before her parents ended the relationship and pulled the girl out of school for 110 days to ensure that the couple would stay apart.
“Dating violence, as a whole, is a pattern of abusive behaviors that happen over a period of time,” Horton said. “It is going to happen more than once, and it is going to all revolve around wanting to gain power and control over another person.”
Horton shared her stories and the common signs of dating abuse with more than a dozen teens and adults Tuesday night inside McHenry County College for Turning Point’s seminar on teen dating violence.
The event began a series of events Turning Point has planned for Domestic Violence Awareness Month this October.
Nationwide, 41 percent of females and 37 percent of males, ages 14 to 20, reported being victims of dating violence, either psychologically, physically or sexually, according to a study this year from the Center for Innovative Public Health Research.
The statistics alone don’t tell the whole story. Horton said that dating violence goes underreported since teens tend to turn a blind eye to verbal and emotional warning signs.
“There is no bad emotion. Every emotion is OK because everyone feels a wide range of feelings and emotions,” Horton said. “But what’s not OK is when you act on those feelings or emotions that hurt somebody else.”
A jealous boyfriend or girlfriend who forces a person to stop participating in after-school activities or interacting with friends and family are examples of emotions gone too far.
Teens also have to be mindful that technology, text messaging and social media all can act as avenues for emotional and verbal abuse, Horton said.
Parents consequently struggle to understand the best ways to manage their child’s abusive relationship. Parents generally need to walk a line between being supportive and knowing when to intervene.
“If teens are able to seek the support from parents, from Turning Point, from their school and they receive the support that they need ... they realize that they deserve better than what they were dealt in that relationship,” Horton said.
Turning Point’s upcoming Domestic Violence Awareness Month events
• Wednesday, Oct. 9: From 6 to 7 p.m., people across McHenry County will meet at Woodstock Square to honor the survivors and families of domestic violence. The event is free.
• Sunday, Oct. 20: From 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., residents are welcome to cheer on the Chicago Bears, knock down bowling pins, and raise money for Turning Point inside Kingston Lanes, 1330 Eastwood Lane, Woodstock. Tickets are $20 per person or $60 for a family of four.
• Thursday, Oct. 24: From 6:30 to 9 p.m., the public can help celebrate the “Heroes Among Us” at Turning Point’s annual dinner at the Woodstock Country Club, 10310 Country Club Road.
For information, call Turning Point at 815-338- 8081