Rachel Canning was back in court. The New Jersey teen who infamously sued her parents for support and college costs after moving out of their home and into the home of a friend, filed for and was granted a temporary restraining order against her boyfriend. According to Canning, Lucas Kitzmiller choked her with his hands during a quarrel. Kitzmiller responded to the restraining order against him by filing one against Canning. A day before the hearing to finalize the orders, both Canning and Kitzmiller agreed to the dismissal of the orders; the teens will soon head to different colleges and presumably the distance between them will prevent any further interaction.  

While some may be tempted to write off this latest court appearance of Canning as the latest chapter in her personal melodrama, teen domestic violence is very real, and very common.  As Collin County family law attorneys know, Canning's story itself--minus the court appearances--is all too common: her relationship with Kitzmiller was one of the main areas of disagreement between her and her parents. Canning's parents disapproved of Kitzmiller and wanted their daughter to stop dating him; she wanted to continue seeing him. Even after reconciling with her parents and moving back into their home after withdrawing her lawsuit against them, Canning continued to see Kitzmiller on an "on-again" and "off-again" basis. That ended when Canning filed for the restraining order against Kitzmiller.  

Teen domestic violence--as well as adult domestic violence--is much more complicated. The definition of teen domestic violence is a pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse perpetrated by an adolescent against a current or former dating partner. The abusive teen uses the pattern of violent and coercive behavior to gain power and maintain control over over the dating partner. 

Teens ages 13-18 years old are at high risk for abuse because they are just beginning to explore dating and intimacy, and because they are least likely to report the warning signs of and/or actual abuse. A staggering 1 in 10 teens experience physical violence in their dating relationships, and 1 in 4 teens report experiencing some type of abuse--physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual.  In addition, a full 9.4% of high school students surveyed reported being slapped, hit, or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the twelve months prior to the survey being conducted.  

Collin County family law attorneys point to one of the aspects of teen domestic violence that differentiates it from adult domestic violence: the high level of isolation in the dating relationship. Teens often spend a lot of time with their romantic partners, but in unhealthy, abusive relationships, this exclusivity can escalate to isolation from friends, family, hobbies, and anything or anyone other than the abusive dating partner.  Such a high level of isolation allows for maximum control by the abuser. Because many times it is the teen's first relationship, the teen often mistakes the possessiveness and attention for romance and love. When the teen becomes aware of the abuse, he or she may not want parents or other adults to know about it, even if the abusive relationship has ended.  Teens may fear that parents will question their judgment in the future regarding dating partners, or be over-protective and not allow them to date at all for awhile.  

If you are concerned about a teen you know being involved in an abusive relationship, or if a teen you know may be the victim of teen domestic violence,  you may contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline or the Teen Dating Abuse Hotline. If you have legal questions regarding your rights in a case where there was domestic violence, contact Collin County family law attorneys at Nordhaus Walpole, PLLC.