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Emotional abuse: About one in three teens struggles in a bad relationship

Emotional abuse

"Just because someone loves you doesn't mean that they are good for you." -- Unknown.

"Dumb," "Ugly," "Fatty"--ever been called these names by someone you love or seen someone you love called these names?

You are not alone. About one in three high school students has been or will be involved in an abusive relationship, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Teen dating abuse knows no bounds; it impacts all races as well as the rich and poor.

If you think you or a loved one are in an unhealthy relationship, there is help.

What is emotional abuse? It's the power to control a situation; abusers degrade you to feel higher or better, control all aspects of your life and are manipulative. Keep your eyes open for the signs.

You might be forced to ask permission from a significant other to do things such as going to the mall, hanging out with friends and family or even what to wear every day.

Being involved in an abusive relationship lowers self-esteem and may lead you to feel as if no one else would love or be attracted to you. You might try your hardest to satisfy your abuser with gifts and surprises, but it seems as if nothing is ever good enough, nothing you do is right.

Abusers must feel control in all areas of the relationship. Personal belongings soon become the abuser's domain. They might break your belongings as they lash out in anger. Privacy is violated; they might check your recent calls and text messages daily. They might delete friends' numbers from your phone that they "don't like."

Maybe you often are faced with untrue accusations of cheating in the relationship or flirting with others. Your boyfriend or girlfriend might accuse you of wanting another person's attention and display jealous tendencies. These are just some examples of warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

So why stay in abusive relationships? For many, it is because they feel "stuck." When dating someone who is abusive, you feel worthless and come to believe you deserve much of the treatment you're receiving.

How to escape

Is there a way to escape these relationships? Yes, and the first step is asking for help. Talking to your family and being honest about what is going on is a good first step. Sometimes, it may be hard to tell a parent or guardian, in fear of shame. In that case, try talking to a sibling.

Close friends also are good to confide in to help take steps toward getting out and can offer support when talking to a professional or parent. They usually understand, are aware of the situation and always will help.

A school counselor is a person you have daily access to at school, making it convenient to talk to them, too. They work with teenagers every day and can offer support and guidance. Maybe even working with a school counselor to get a group going to support others in the same situation would make a difference.

Finally, if you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone you know, there still is help available. The National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. All calls are anonymous and confidential. Calling the hot line can give you the courage to take the next step out of the relationship. It's just a phone call away: (866) 331-9474.

There also might be community resources available to help deal with the abuse. In Grand Forks, the Community Violence Intervention Center helps victims deal with abusive relationships. The people there can help abuse victims get counseling and provide ways to cope with their problems. CVIC services are confidential, giving anonymity and support at the same time.

It's often hard to leave someone you love and deeply care about. Sometimes, you can't do it alone. Remember, you're not; many people have the same problem. It might take time, but in the end, you will realize it's pointless to be with someone if they are not truly making you happy.

Remember, love is not jealousy, hurt, anger, threats, slaps, kicks, punches or possessiveness. The best time to get out is now; it's never ever too late. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, get out now. Life is too short to live in fear.

Victims can call CVIC in Grand Forks 24 hours a day at (701)746-8900; or toll-free at (866)746-8900. The office lines are (701)746-0405 and (800) 366-6888. CVIC is located at 211 S. Fourth St. in Grand Forks.