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What Parents Need to Know About Intimate Partner Abuse

Today’s episode is very special for me because I have had a professional crush on this guest for a while. On episode 11 (S2) of “One Day You’ll Thank Me”, Bea Cote (LCSW, LMFT), came to talk with us about intimate partner abuse, and what parents need to know. Bea is the founder of Impact, LLC and Step Up to Family Safety, an organization created to provide services to abusers (typically men who have physically and emotionally harmed others (typically their male or female romantic partners), but she has worked extensively with victims also.

Bea started the conversation by telling us to “Buckle Up!” I was really glad she said that because this is such important information, that most people are not privy to, therefore, it is not talked about very often. That is why we wanted to talk about it in a very frank way.

When defining domestic abuse, we are really talking about intimate partner abuse. Intimate partner abuse is a pattern of coercive controlling and physically abusive behaviors. In most all cases, the pattern doesn't appear to anybody but the victim and it often takes them a long time to recognize the pattern. He may just push her one week. Then maybe he trips her. The abuse never looks the same, so the victim "silos" the behavior--instead of recognizing it as a pattern, she sees each incident as an isolated incident and tells herself "but he's never done anything like this before." Bea notes that most abuse isn't criminal, as it's more complex than him "laying his hands on her." She doesn't want to see herself as a victim, she doesn't resemble the women on the billboards and she may never get hit.

And men often view themselves as the victim, they do not recognize themselves as the abuser, particularly if women report the abuse. He’s going to say “I have never laid my hands on her,” “I’ve never hit her”. How dare she blame him or violate every rule of marriage and family by going to the police. How dare she talk back or make his life uncomfortable.

Anna asks if men are ever abused. Bea discusses the nuances of the statistics noted in the media, noting that the data can be misleading as it's typically based on self-report. Bea shares data obtained by the local DV program here in Charlotte, NC, which reports that approximately 95% of reported abuse targets WOMEN. In homosexual relationships, men are abused by other men.

Bea notes for us that the media’s version of a domestic abuse story may be misleading or uses

victim blaming language and assumptions. You will not hear the whole story and usually just get a piece of it by the headline, “Woman killed” we don't know anything further. Why doesn’t it say “Man Kills Wife”?

Strangulation is a felony, and is an indicator of future murder (850% more likely to kill her) and Police often mislabel strangulation as "choking" or refer to murder as "a crime of passion," which is complete bullshit.

Something so important for parents and teens to know is the idea of jealousy, or obsession---this leads to men feeling as they own that woman. Jealousy is immature, often witnessed in teens. Teens "practice" adult relationships via dating, and unhealthy experiences can shape what they view as "normal" in relationships and create more problems later. Many teenage girls feel that “he really must love me and care about me if he is so jealous”. They tend to go to the passionate guy that says I can’t live without you. That is extremely far from the truth and it is a sign of ownership and unhealthy behavior, we need to look behind the language.

How can we protect our teens from intimate partner abuse?

1. Point out and discuss unhealthy (and healthy) relationships in the media. Translate what they are seeing.

2. Role model a healthy relationship at home, and recognize that your kids WITNESSING abuse is still child abuse. Even if they are not hit, kids are receiving bad examples of what relationships look like and what is “normal” and that is child abuse.

What is the role in a power differential in a relationship?

Domestic violence almost always happens when one person takes the power and runs with it. We live in a patriarchal society and that is reinforced through media and families throughout our whole lives. The boys are constantly receiving information that women are inferior, boys will be boys, if dads not here you are the man of the house, etc.

What signs should you look for in your teens that they are in an abusive relationship?

- Change in behavior toward you and others that is different than maybe a month ago (because kids that age act strange and pull away at times in general at that age).

- Pulling away from friends to be with a boyfriend or girlfriend is a huge sign.

- How often are the boyfriend or girlfriend calling them?

- Change in style of clothing that is different from their friends, wearing long sleeves or changing hairstyle and the rest of their friends are not doing it too.

- Boyfriend buys a phone for their girlfriend.

Teens need your attention and being an anchor at home while they are going through their teenage craziness. Pay attention to your child's behavior & set boundaries if you witness your child engaging in unhealthy behavior within a romantic relationship. Educate your kids about these types of behaviors and the signs to look for and discuss how they are unhealthy. Make sure you are teaching them that about women having equal status and have value. Reinforcing for girls how competent they are and that boys and girls know about what consent is.

How can someone get help if they are in an abusive relationship or are an abuser? You can refer to the links below to learn more and then there is the national hotline and shelters in every city.


To learn more about Bea's ImpactDV program, visit HERE.

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Learn more about Dr. Tara Egan's therapy services RIGHT HERE.

Learn more about Dr. Tara Egan's books, webinars, public speaking opportunities, and coaching/consultation services RIGHT HERE.

Register for our FREE weekly parenting webinar series RIGHT HERE. We discuss a myriad of parenting topics each week, and registrants can watch LIVE or get the recording emailed to watch at a more convenient time.

Finally, join our private FB group for parents of high school students RIGHT

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