By Connect with Kids
“It’s a loss that you can’t comprehend; it’s a void that can never be filled again.”
– Tom Santoro, father
Studies show that one in three teenage girls has been in a relationship where she has feared for her safety. One in five has been physically abused; one in four has been verbally abused. Even when your daughter is at home, that doesn’t mean she is out of harm’s way.
“The old saying, “If I can’t have her, no one else can’ came true for Lisa,” says Tom Santoro, Lisa’s father.
Lisa Santoro, 18, was brutally murdered by her ex-boyfriend.
“It’s a loss that you can’t comprehend; it’s a void that can never be filled again,” says her father.
In the weeks between their break-up and her death, Lisa’s ex-boyfriend, Timothy Bucholz, began stalking her.
“We found out afterwards that he kept calling her after the breakup. We found out he started to follow her around,” says Santoro.
According to a survey by Teenage Research Unlimited, one in three teens is a victim of cyber-stalking — harassment either by phone calls or text messages.
“He would call and cry, say that he was upset that she had broken up with him. There were other conversations where he started telling her that he wanted all his stuff back,” says Laura Mejia, Lisa’s friend.
Experts say it can be hard to tell that your teen is being stalked, especially if she has her own cell phone. But there are warning signs.
“You see differences in the way your child behaves. There may be depression, there may be isolation, there may be a nervousness around the telephone ringing. There may be telephone calls coming to your child’s cell phone all hours of the night. You hear the phone ring several times, it‘s the same person,” says Kim Frndak, domestic violence specialist.
“Maybe the child sees the caller ID and puts the phone away,” Frndak continues. “They may or may not want to tell you what’s going on, but that’s a big red flag — the harassing phone calls and stalking behaviors.”
Frndak says if the harassment continues, call the parents of the stalker.
“You may get some resistance, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying ‘I’m going to call’ because chances are if he’s behaving this way towards your daughter, he’s done it in the past with other people,” says Frndak.
“And she has got to realize you’re doing this for her protection. I know as a teenager they don’t like it, but it’s something you have to do as a parent,” says Santoro.
Tips for Parents
- Abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual. Slapping, hitting and kicking are forms of physical abuse that can occur in both romances and friendships. (Nemours Foundation)
- Dating abuse is linked to patterns of violence that may negatively affect future relationships. If your child has been abused or is participating in some of the risky behaviors listed above, encourage him or her to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional to cope with emotions or to learn how to stop unhealthy habits and behaviors. (Nemours Foundation)
- Emotional abuse (teasing, bullying and humiliating others) can be difficult to recognize because it doesn’t leave any visible scars. Threats, intimidation, putdowns, and betrayal are all harmful forms of emotional abuse that can really hurt. (Nemours Foundation)
- You may be involved in an abusive relationship when someone …
- harms you physically in any way, including slapping, pushing, grabbing, shaking, smacking, kicking, and punching.
- tries to control different aspects of your life, such as how you dress, who you hang out with, what you say.
- frequently humiliates you or makes you feel unworthy (for example, if a partner puts you down but tells you that he or she loves you).
- coerces or threatens to harm you, or harm himself, if you leave the relationship.
- twists the truth to make you feel that you are to blame for your his actions.
- demands to know where you are at all times.
- constantly becomes jealous or angry when you want to spend time with your friends.
- If you believe you are in an abusive relationship and you want to end it, experts recommend:
- First, make sure you’re safe. A trusted adult can help. If the person has physically attacked you, get medical attention or call the police immediately. Don’t wait; assault is illegal, and so is rape — even if it’s done by someone you are dating. (Nemours Foundation)
- Avoid the tendency to isolate yourself from your friends and family. You might feel like you have nowhere to turn, or you might be embarrassed about what’s been going on, but this is when you need support the most. People such as counselors, doctors, teachers, coaches, and friends will want to help you, so let them. (Nemours Foundation)
- Ending abuse and violence in teen relationships is a community effort with plenty of people ready to help. Seek out crisis centers, teen help lines and abuse hotlines. These organizations have professionally-trained staff to listen, understand and help. (Nemours Foundation)