TRUMANN, AR (KAIT)- February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and with Valentine's Day just days away a local counselor sheds light on the warning signs of an abusive relationship, plus ways to get help.
Most girls expect to receive flowers and candy in February but some teenage girls are receiving threats and abuse from their boyfriend.
"There is now the ability for one to be in constant contact with someone else," said Cherrie McCoy, guidance counselor at Trumann High School. "So it's Facebook, it's Twitter, it's everywhere, texting so it allows someone who is trying to control or dominate to be in constant contact."
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one in three teens in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a partner. Women ages 16 to 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, which is triple the national average.
Most abuse comes from electronic communications like: monitoring the whereabouts of a partner, posting intimate or embarrassing pictures of video of a partner, even name-calling on social media.
"If you see a student who is constantly in emotional distress, crying a lot, bruises that look like fingerprints on the upper arms or around the neck area," McCoy said. "If we had any inkling that something was wrong we would talk to the students and immediately contact parents."
"Then to refer out to other resources as necessary, whether it be for counseling, mental health counseling, law enforcement, whatever those needs might be," she said.
McCoy advises parents to be in close contact with their kids and look for any odd behavior.
"I would advise parents to always know who their kids are with and where they are and certainly get to know the person that their child is dating," she said. "Keep lines of communication open, stay up at night when those kids come home from those parties or dates and talk to their kids and just see what type of emotional state they're in, are they happy or are they distressed."
McCoy said she hasn't had a lot of students talk to her about an abusive relationship but it does happen.
"You have to help those kids understand that when someone loves you and cares about you, they don't want to hurt you," she said.
Signs of Dating Abuse: http://www.loveisrespect.org/is-this-abuse/is-this-abuse