Teen dating violence is real and personal

By Amy Rigelman, Guest Columnist

“I first met Adam when I was 16. He was a senior and was very popular and involved in many sports. I had never had a boyfriend before, and I was excited that a popular boy was interested in me.

“In the beginning, we hung out all the time and I really enjoyed it. I thought he must really care about me since he wanted to be with me every day.

“About a month into the relationship, I made plans to go to a movie and out to dinner with my best friend that I had not seen in a while. During the movie, he texted me over 30 times.

“He was upset with me because I didn’t respond to any of the messages. I told him that I had my phone turned off during the movie. He started saying things like ‘I guess I don’t matter that much to you,’ and ‘I guess your friends mean more to you than I do.’”

“I ditched my friend after the movie so I could hang out with him because I felt bad, like I had done something wrong by not responding to his texts.

“I didn’t realize back then that he was already trying to control me by isolating me from my friends. Slowly my situation got worse. He would yell at me if I had to do homework or study for tests and couldn’t provide him with my undivided attention.

“I remember one time when I was studying for a final. He wanted me to watch a movie with him, and I told him I really needed to study for this final because I was failing the class. My grades were dropping in school because I didn’t have time to focus on my school work. He got mad at me and punched a hole in the wall. That really scared me and I started crying. He apologized immediately afterward and was crying, too. He said he would never do anything like that again, and I believed him.

“A few weeks later, I was eating lunch in the cafeteria with a friend when one of his friends sat down next to me. We had a class together and were talking about the homework assignment that was due that day.

“My boyfriend suddenly appeared out of nowhere. He grabbed my arm, yanked me off my chair and pulled me into the hallway. He accused me of flirting with his friend in front of the entire school. When I told him we were just talking about homework, he slapped me across my face and told me not to talk to his friends again unless he was with me.

“I stayed with him for a total of six months. I was afraid to tell my mom what was going on. I didn’t know if she would believe me or if she would blame me.

“I didn’t really have any friends I could talk to about the abuse either. They stopped talking to me because I would make plans with them and then cancel if my boyfriend told me I couldn’t go.

“Eventually I got enough confidence to tell my older sister who was in college at the time. She helped me find resources in my community to help me get away from my abusive boyfriend.

“We contacted Hands of Hope Resource Center and developed a safety plan that I could use while at school. I also met with an advocate from there. It was very helpful just to have someone to talk to and not judge me.

“Looking back, I now know that the abuse was not my fault. I did not do anything wrong. I did not cause my boyfriend to abuse me. It was his choice, and the fault lies with him.”

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact Hands of Hope Resource Center at (320) 632-4878.

Amy Rigelman is the abused child coordinator at the Hands of Hope Resource Center, Little Falls.