Young love takes its toll|Campus violence prompts second look at first relationships

SANDUSKY Note passing, hand holding and letter jacket sharing are fond memories of young love. But during a time when
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Note passing, hand holding and letter jacket sharing are fond memories of young love.

But during a time when headlines announce school shootings and relationships gone deadly awry, officials say adolescent relationships are something to keep an eye on. They easily get out of hand, they say.

"We do frequently have students present us problems dealing with their relationships," said Barbara Straka-Kenning, guidance counselor at Sandusky High School. For some students, it really is their first true love. They might go overboard."

Straka-Kenning said the most common problems they see are caused by jealousy or rumors.

"We do get jealousies, rivalries and flirtation that is apparent," she said. "Rumors are probably the No. 1 cause of fighting. It comes to a peak in adolescent years from a lack of communication skills and not wanting to confront people directly."

Straka-Kenning said problems with teen relationships are a result of a variety of factors.

For one, students may not know how to behave in a relationship. Students who haven't been in a relationship before may try to go to extremes to impress their boyfriend or girlfriend.

"I think sometimes they get over-involved and don't have the social skills and the maturity to handle the relationship," she said.

Sometimes teen love angst interferes with school. The most common problems Straka-Kenning has noticed are tardies or missing buses because of lingering too long in the halls.

A high school relationship may also be the first time students experience adult responsibility.

"They like that control, it's empowering to an adolescent," Straka-Kenning said. "For most of their lives, their parents have been telling them what to do. Now they exercise their power on another person in the name of love."

When teachers or guidance counselors notice possible warning signs having to do with stalking or abuse, the first thing they do is try to address the problems in counseling.

"We tell them this isn't normal behavior," she said.

She encourages students to ask themselves if their boyfriend or girlfriend makes them a better person, is helpful and supportive.

"If that's not happening, it isn't a good healthy relationship," she said. "They might want to back up and look at it from a more objective perspective. Put yourself in someone else's shoes. Sometimes they are just to close and too heavily involved in it."

Peer mediation is also an option. It gives students a chance to talk openly and calmly about a situation. It is especially effective in dealing with problems started by rumors.

Straka-Kenning said there are specific teen abusive relationship warning sign to look for including: putting each other down, trying to be dominant or controlling, extreme jealousy, explosive tempers and possessiveness.

If that happens, get out of the relationship or seek help from an adult, she noted.

By the numbers

* 1 in 3 teen relationships are abusive

* 36 percent of teens reported violence in their relationship

* Dating domestic violence affects the same number of people regardless of race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation

* 95 percent of reported cases of dating-domestic violence to the police are committed by men against women

* The remaining 5 percent of reported cases are committed by women against men, by women against women and by men against men

* 60 percent of children who grow up in abusive homes repeat the behavior

* 1 out of every 3 women murdered is killed by a current or ex-husband or boyfriend