The dark side of teen dating

An alarming new study published by USA Today reveals that over one-third of the teens polled admitted to having been in an abusive relationship.

The study broke down the ages of callers to the National Dating Abuse Hotline in 2012, and over half of the calls came from people in their teens.

Lauri Edwards, a therapist at Lifesong for Growth and Wellness in Jefferson City, said both teens and adults in abusive relationships often go through a similar process of abuse then reconciliation.

However, since teens tend to lack relationship experience, they are sometime more susceptible to returning to an abusive partner.

"It's a learning through this learning process it's sometimes more difficult for teens to identify [abusive behavior] and see [abusive behavior]. And often teens are a little more trusting than adults that have had some of those experiences and know what to look for," Edwards said.

Edwards said some warning signs for physical abuse can be physically controlling behavior, a partner that makes excuses for that behavior and visible cuts and bruises.

Those experiencing emotional abuse may withdraw from friends and family and focus solely on their partner. They also may no longer enjoy the things that once made them happy.

Edwards also said many teens feel insecure when they think about leaving abusive relationships because they are unsure of their identity outside of being told what to do.

Kellie Dennis has a 14-year-old daughter and told KRCG 13 she tried to raise her in a manner to deter her from getting into or staying in an abusive relationship.

"[We have] an open relationship, make sure that we're able to have good communication and make sure that she can come to me and talk to me about anything," Dennis said.

Edwards suggested that teens that are in an abusive relationship seek the guidance of a trusted adult. She also recommended finding groups of people who have been through similar experiences so that the victim knows they are not alone.