But He Loves Me: A "Controlling" Boyfriend Can Lead to Abuse

Study finds that many young victims are reluctant to admit that they are being abused.  

Posted: 04/11/2011 11:28 AM EDT

While some young women and girls may believe that a controlling mate is a sign of how much a man loves them, it's really just a sign of abuse. Most important, it's on the rise and in many instances it is a precursor to physical and sexual violence, says a new study.

By analyzing data from 600 woman ages 15 to 24 who frequented a local reproductive health center, researchers from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City found that 68 percent reported that a partner had been controlling.

Thirty-eight percent said they experienced controlling behavior only; 11 percent reported experiencing controlling behavior plus physical abuse; 10 percent reported controlling behavior and sexual violence; and 9 percent reported having been victims of all forms of relationship violence.

Women were more likely to experience a higher number of episodes of controlling behavior if they were aged 15 to 18, Hispanic, had been exposed to domestic violence during childhood, had been pregnant at least once, had suffered recent physical or sexual violence, and felt uncomfortable asking a male partner to use a condom.

There was a reluctance on the teens' part to admit that this behavior was happening, which led researchers to conclude that there needs to be a better screening process and approach to get the girls to open up about their abuse.

And while this particular study found that latinas were more likely to experience this behavior, it does not mean that this controlling behavior and domestic violence does not affect young Black women. The statistics paint a telling tale: African-American women experience intimate partner violence at rates 35 percent higher than their white counterparts and African-Americans accounted for almost one-third of the intimate partner homicides in this country. Also, a 2003 national study found that almost 14 percent of African-American youth (vs.7 percent of white youth) reported that a boyfriend or girlfriend had “hit, slapped or physically hurt them on purpose” in the last year.

Clearly, this is our problem too.

Most important, a lot of times young girls are either in denial about the abuse or don't know what abuse is. If you believe that you might be in an abusive relationship, but are not sure, here are some questions to consider:

— Is he jealous and possessive; won't let you have friends; checks up on you and won't accept breaking up?

— Does he try to control you by being bossy, giving orders, making all the decisions and not taking your opinions seriously?

— Does he put you down in front of friends or tell you that you would be nothing without him?

— Does he scare you, make you worry about his reactions to things you say or do or threaten you?

— Does he use or own guns or other weapons?

— Does he have a history of fighting, losing his temper quickly or bragging about mistreating others? Or grab, push, shove or hit you?

— Does he pressure you for sex or is he forceful or scary about sex?

— Does he abuse alcohol and/or other drugs and pressure you to take them?

— Does he make you feel like you need to apologize to yourself or others for his behavior when he treats you badly?

These are all signs of abuse.

To learn more about domestic violence and how to get help, go to LoveIsRespect.org.


(Photo: Loveisrespect.org)