Special Report: Is It Abuse?
One in three girls reports that she has been hurt in some way, shape, or form in a relationship.
Juniors and seniors at Lee County High School sat down with Fox 31 News to discuss when texting can become stalking. "If he's not okay with who I'm with or if he tries to tell me who to be friends with and things like that. It's too much" says Kelsey Rogers. Others echo her same sentiments. "If you text me every day repetitively and you keep texting me and not getting the point, even after I've asked you to stop, that's too much" says Hunter Dawson.
Students we spoke to say relationships can be a slippery slope to navigate - especially at the beginning. "Sometimes the girl thinks 'He really cares about me cause he cares what I'm doing every second of the day'." says Kelsey Rogers. Ashley Archer says an obsession can start without the girl noticing and by the time she does - it's a problem. "I think when it starts, it's very minimal and you like it your like 'Oh he cares about me' and as y'all become more comfortable with one another he realizes that you're not stopping him so he does it more and more and more" says Archer.
Silke Deeley with the Liberty House says teenagers have to understand the beginning stages of a control problem. "In the beginning is when that whole issue of control starts to happen. I don't want girls to look at that as being 'cute' or that 'he loves me because he's doing these things'. It's not about that. It's about wanting to control someone" says Deeley.
When asked how they would handle a text messaging stalker or social media stalker all of the students said they would tell their parents and get them to intervene. They also said they would feel comfortable telling a school counselor or a teacher within the school. However their stories changed when we asked about helping a friend in a stalking situation.
One student says she's seen it before and felt conflicted over what to do. "I didn't step in you know because it's not my business. But it did hurt to see a friend going through that and her being in love with the guy". Lizzie Doyle says she would be apprehensive about confronting the guy for fear of losing contact with the friend. "If I'm like 'Hey dude, you need to back off', that he would prevent her from seeing me even more and I don't want that to happen" she says.
Deeley says manipulation is all a part of teen dating violence, but there's another way to look at the situation to see if you want to intervene. "Think of it in terms of saving someone from dying. Because the final end result is the possibility that your friend could die. Now think what are you doing to prevent that?" questions Deeley.
All of the male students Fox 31 spoke with said they would get involved if it was one of their friends. Hugh Slaton says some guys just don't know proper etiquette when it comes to social media. "I had to tell a friend to chill out and get to know her a little bit more in person. 'Don't comment on all of her Facebook pictures, don't like all of her statuses, and stuff like that' " says Slaton.
Senior Nathan Allen says anyone intervening in a teenage dating violence situation has to be careful they aren't physically attacked as well and he proposed potentially talking to a male friend if he noticed stalking. "You'd have to first tell them what they're doing wrong and what the problem is. Then you would have to go on and give them an outline as to what a healthy relationship looks like. If that doesn't work â" you tell someone who is capable of handling it, cause teenagers aren't" says Allen.
Deeley says parents, educators, and community members have to start educating kids early on what a healthy relationship looks like so teenagers are able to discern later on. "We need to start saying, if you're feeling at all uncomfortable, then something is wrong. However that's not always easy because some people grow up in a dysfunctional house and that is their norm" says Deeley.
The Liberty House has resources available for anyone interested in learning more about Teen Dating Violence, Cyber stalking, etc. For more information call 229-439-7094.