<< He seemed like the perfect boyfriend ...

By Julissa Espinoza, 18, Los Angeles HS
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If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help and support available. The Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women (LACAAW) has special programs to help teens in violent relationships and their friends and family members.

Abby Sims, one of the commission staff members, makes presentations at schools to make teens aware of what’s going on with dating violence. In a recent interview, she seemed really friendly and outgoing, the kind of person that won’t brush you off or make you feel embarrassed. She suggested that teens who are in trouble call a local hotline number for friendly supportive person to listen to you. "This is an issue that is too big for someone to handle alone," she said.

The commission has a really neat prevention kit that can fit right into your purse or backpack. It has all the information you need put in one mini-info packet: phone numbers, a checklist to see if your relationship is violent, a description of the cycle of violence and the Bill of Rights which is listed on this page.

Abby said there are many girls who aren’t ready to leave an abusive relationship, but she wasn’t judgmental about it. She said, "There are many reasons, it’s so complex. But none of it is because they like being abused. They can really love this person, they might have a child and feel it’s important for the baby to have both parents, they might be afraid to leave or might be threatened by them. There are times when they [the perpetrators] might apologize, buy you something, and [the girl] feels ‘Why should I throw away a whole relationship over 30 seconds?’ … No one wants to say I’m a victim. People don’t want to identify as a victim."

Abby had a few suggestions on how to help a friend who you suspect is in an abusive relationship. She said if you have a friend whose boyfriend screams at her you should talk to her about it and tell her that you’re worried about her and that you don’t like the way he was talking to her. If she comes to school one day with a bruise, ask her about it.

Don’t blame her, it’s not her fault. Make her aware of help and other resources. Encourage her to leave him but at the same time realize that it may be real hard for her to do so. Tell her, "Without help, abusive relationships tend to get worse, not better. Get the help you need to be SAFE."

24-Hour Crisis Los Angeles Rape & Battering Hotlines: (213) 626-3393; (310) 392-8381; (626) 793-3385

LACAAW Office: (213) 955-9090

The Bill of Rights

Everyone should know the Bill of Rights for a healthy relationship:

"I have the right to be treated with respect."

"I have the right to say NO and not feel guilty."

"I have the right to change my mind."

"I deserve NOT to be hit."

"My partner deserves NOT to be yelled and screamed at."

"I do NOT deserve to be told that I’m stupid."

"I do NOT have the right to demand that my partner dress or act a certain way."