All the facts you gave us were astonishing, but opened our eyes to the real world.

- Teen who participated in High School Youth Education Program



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Teen FAQ's

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual behavior. Types of sexual harassment include: physical (i.e. unwanted hugs, blocking one's way, bumping into someone, staring), verbal (i.e. name calling, sexual comments, references to sexual orientation), visual (i.e. displaying sexual pictures, sending/receiving sexual messages), uncomfortable attention from adults or other youth and discrimination.

What is sexual assault?

Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. This includes being forced or pressured to perform sexual acts, unwanted touching, child sexual abuse and rape.

How can I tell if my boyfriend or girlfriend is really being abusive?

Abuse is any ongoing pattern of power or control, whether physical, emotional, verbal, financial or sexual in nature. It may be abuse if your boyfriend or girlfriend . . .

  • Embarrasses you or treats you badly in front of others
  • Resents your family and/or friends or isolates you from them
  • Makes you feel afraid to say what you really think, to express what you really want, or to make your own choices (i.e. what clothing you wear or activities you participate in)
  • Hits, kicks, shoves, scratches or throws things at you when he or she is angry
  • Pressures you into sexual behaviors you aren't comfortable with

Isn’t alcohol a major cause of violence in relationships or in the home?

Alcohol (and/or substance abuse) does not “cause” the violent behavior even though victims and abusers report high levels of alcohol and substance abuse associated with violent incidents. Alcohol is a major contributing factor to incidents of relationship violence or domestic violence (violence in the home). Some abusers do not use alcohol (or drugs) at all. Some have drinking and/or drug “problems”, but are violent whether or not they are under the influence. Still others limit their violence to those times when they are under the influence. And most importantly, there are many people who use drugs or alcohol that never act abusively, therefore there is no causal relationship. The alcohol/drug problem and the abusive/assaultive behaviors are two separate problems to which both require a response. If only the alcohol or substance abuse is treated, the abuser will simply find another “excuse” or "trigger" for their violence, for example stress or anger.

Isn’t violence and sexual abuse found mainly in low-income (poor) families because of all the money problems?

Research indicates that violence in the home occurs in all types of families, regardless of income level. Violence and abuse also occur in families of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, as well as in same-sex relationships. The actual violence may not be different across diverse social and cultural groups, but the rate of official reporting and identification varies. Middle and upper class individuals are less likely to come to the attention of public officials due to the following factors:

  • greater access to resources such as private doctors, attorneys, counselors and safe places to stay (i.e. motels, with friends or family)
  • less affluent individuals must turn to public agencies like police, domestic violence shelters and emergency rooms for help, which makes them easily identified for statistics
  • fear of embarrassment in reporting abuse to the police, social services or medical providers, and a need to protect the family’s position and reputation in the community

Aren’t children more likely to be abusive if they grew up in a family where they witnessed abuse or were themselves abused?

Children who are abused or who witness abuse in their families are more at risk to become abusers. This doesn’t mean they are going to become abusive, but they are at a higher risk to learn abusive behaviors, normalize them and then repeat the behaviors. Research tells us that a child is 1,000 times more likely to be abusive if they grew up in a household where there was abuse, however, it does not mean they will make that choice. Some say, “I am never going to do that when I am older,” and they don’t, but some do. Although they are more at risk, they can make choices to not be abusive in their own families.

Are all men who sexually assault another man gay?

Although it is a sexual act, sexual assault is about power and control. A male assaulting another male is using the sexual act to gain control over that person. The rapist may also have a goal of humiliating, intimidating, or physically hurting the other man. The sexual assault is about taking control over that particular victim, not about the perpetrator's or victim’s sexual orientation.

Is it possible for an abusive person to change?

It is possible for an abusive person to change their pattern of behavior – but only if they choose to do so. In other words, you cannot change a person, or force them to change or bribe them to change. People often choose to change because:

  • it's best for them
  • they recognize how destructive abusive behavior is to themselves and others
  • they recognize they have the ability to make different choices
  • abusers will often promise to change in order to manipulate the victim to stay in the relationship, but then do not follow through on the promise

Why do victims stay with someone who is abusive?

We should probably first focus on the abuser's behavior and ask the question, "Why does someone choose to abuse someone they supposedly love or care about?" Victims may feel trapped in the relationship or have hope that the abuser will change. They also face many barriers to ending the relationship, such as:

  • afraid of social implications (rumors, isolation by ex-partner's friends, may affect popularity)
  • used to being a couple and will miss doing things with other couples
  • don't want to be alone
  • first experience with abusive behaviors and don't know what to do or how to talk about it
  • fear of further abuse or stalking
  • shame or guilt
  • not feeling like anyone will believe, help or understand them
  • not knowing that they don't deserve the abuse
  • concern over how others might judge them if they end the relationship

Unfortunately, research shows that the most dangerous time for a victim is when they end the relationship and 6 months following, so ending the relationship does not guarantee safety.

Why do domestic and sexual violence happen?

This is a very hard questions to answer, as domestic and sexual violence are complex social problems with a number of contributing factors. People make choices about their behavior based on their beliefs and values. There are many beliefs that a person may hold which may lead to them committing domestic or sexual violence:

  • it is okay to use violence/coercion/intimidation to get your needs met 
  • it is okay to take advantage of people who have less power
  • one person should be in control of a relationship
  • rigid, traditional and separate gender roles should be followed

In addition, society often accepts these forms of violence and blames the victim for the offender's behavior. This response doesn't discourage or punish people for domestic or sexual violence.

Click HERE to learn more about domestic and sexual violence.

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