Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Teens warned about dangers of abusive relationships

Threat of dating violence placed at forefront of community conscience

Express Staff Writer

Dr. Jill Murray answers questions following her presentation at Wood River High School on Thursday, March 8. Murray focused on teen dating and violence, and provided students and parents alike the tools to recognize and avoid dangerous relationships. Photo by Trevor Schubert

Wood River High School students and their parents had the unique opportunity to hear from and ask questions of a nationally recognized expert in the field of domestic violence as well as the leading internationally recognized expert in the field of teen dating violence.

Dr. Jill Murray, who lives and works out of Southern California, spoke candidly on the dangers of teen dating violence on Thursday, March 8 at Wood River High School. Topics included signs parents can recognize indicating their son or daughter is engaging in an unhealthy relationship, means to combating the vicious cycle of violence, and statistics showing what could happen if the violence is allowed to escalate.

"In the past 11 months, five girls who have e-mailed me are now dead," Murray said, eliciting drawn breath and focused eyes from many in attendance. Although Murray "receives hundreds of e-mails each day" from teens of both genders, the cold, hard reality of her statement appeared to go a long way in impressing the severity of the topic on those in attendance.

Murray brought a deep well of knowledge to the discussion. Her expertise has landed her on more than 300 television shows, including two appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20, Good Morning America, and CNN's Paula Zahn Now. She has been interviewed by more than 200 newspapers and national magazines and she speaks to more than 100,000 middle school and high school students each year.

Murray holds a B.S. degree in psychology from UCLA and a Masters and Doctorate from the American Behavioral Studies Institute.

She is also the best-selling author of "But I Love Him—Protecting your teen daughter from controlling, abusive dating relationships" and "Destructive Relationships—A guide to the changing the unhealthy relationships in your life." Her most recent book, "But He Never Hit Me—The devastating cost on non-physical abuse to girls and womenm" has just been released. All proceeds from her book sales go to non-profit organizations that combat dating violence. Another book, "But I Love Him," has recently been slated for a made-for-TV movie by Lifetime Television.

"I think I know a lot (about the dangers dating violence poses to teens)," said Wood River High School student Morgan Pintler, whose mom is a former councilor at the Teen Parenting Program in Nampa. "But there is always more to learn about how to deal with such a situation—and, more importantly, how to recognize it."

Pintler said that if the situation ever arose, which thankfully it has not, she would want to be able to help a friend overcome the hardships of an unhealthy relationship.

Pintler's mom, Carol, said "I just want my daughters to have a real firm idea of what a healthy relationship is."

Carol Pinter, who has daughters in both middle school and high school, said, "I don't think kids are ever too young to start learning the basic-concepts of healthy relationships."

Throughout the evening, Murray had many poignant quotes and hard-learned lessons for parents and children alike.

"Abuse is intentional," Murray said. "The abuser has a plan for your child."

Murray stressed the point that abuse is not gender-specific and girls can be vicious, too.

Abuse, both physical and verbal, is at it roots a grab for control and a need to posses another human being, Murray said.

One thing parents can look for is, "if your son or daughter stops hanging out with their friends and starts making excuses not to see them," Murray said.

She stressed that the abuser wants to be your child's only influence and will often achieve such means through the deflation of the child's self esteem.

"It's is hard to understand why teens stay in abusive relationships," Murray said. And although there is no panacea, the answer often lies "in inexperience or even poor role modeling."

Murray went on to say that "95 percent of abusive relationships are sexual relationships and for teens this is often their first sexual relationship. This is, for girls especially, an extremely bonding experience." Pessimism and fear weren't the only focus of Murray's address.

"When you are in a healthy relationship, the world is a great place," Murray said. "But you have to know that love is a behavior, love is not a feeling. It is the way someone treats you 24 (hours a day), seven (days a week), 365 (days a year)."

Murray said, "it's a fallacy to say he's great 80, 90 or even 95 percent of the time."

And to the parents in the audience, Murray said, "you can flat out forbid your child from seeing someone—but then you are just another abusive influence in your child's life and your child has not learned how to make good decisions."

To learn more about Dr. Jill Murray or to contact her, visit her Web site at

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