Talking to your kids about the dangers of abusive teen relationships

Posted at 5:29 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-03 22:26:21-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- A woman almost lost her life during an abusive relationship that started when she was just a teenager, and she didn't see the signs until it was almost too late.

According to the National Institute of Justice, one in three teenage girls are victims of teen dating violence.   It's a taboo topic, and many parents might think it will never happen to their children.    These unhealthy early relationships can seem "normal" to young kids, which puts them in serious danger.

Mary Teske suffered seven broken bones in her face during a brutal altercation with her abusive ex-boyfriend.

"When you are in that situation... I had family members, and friends, and everyone telling me to get out of that situation," Teske said.  "They loved me.  I deserved better, and they wanted better for me but I was so wrapped up in the dysfunction.  I think if I had been in counseling or taken some classes on it, you know, just had more education and recognized the signs... this was all I knew."

Teske says she got pregnant with her first child when she was 16 years old.   She said she was happy to become a mom, even if she was so young.

She says her ex-boyfriend, who is also the father of her children, was sweet and caring at first.  However, it wasn't long before that changed.

"It started little.   It works its way up it starts with something small and it progresses. It gets worse and worse," Teske said.

Teske stayed with her abuser for nine-and-a-half years and had three children with him.  Safe Haven Ministries says a person's first relationship can impact them for the rest of their life, which is why they start conversations about abusive relationships in the pre-teen years.

"Parents might think 'Oh my gosh, why are we talking to them so young?' and that's exactly the intent," said Danielle Lucksted with Safe Haven Ministries.  "So we are planting the seeds of not only what an unhealthy relationship is but what a healthy relationship looks like.

Teen violence isn't always easy to spot, and can come in many forms.  Safe Haven Ministries says a teen is more likely to talk to a peer about dating violence than a parent or a teacher, so it's important for parents to communicate about relationships.

If you believe that you are in a verbally, emotionally or physically abusive relationship, you are advised to seek help and support from friends and family you trust or from a domestic violence agency. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence to find out about local resources available to you. To learn about the prevention programs at Safe Haven Ministries visit their website or call Safe Haven's 24/7 hotline at 616-452-6664.