High School Confidential
Published Monday, October 22, 2012 5:31PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, November 12, 2012 11:14AM EST
MONTREAL--The image of domestic abuse often entails a violent man battering his wife. But while domestic abuse is not limited to men attacking women, it is also not limited to married couples--nor adults.
Studies have found that between 20 and 30 per cent of North American high school students have suffered psychological, verbal, sexual or physical abuse at the hands of their partner.
When Corinne Boyer was 15 years old and at a new school, she met a boy with a tough reputation.
"I wanted to help him. I guess I saw something in him and wanted to change him and make him better."
At first she took the constant phone calls and demands to be with her as a compliment, but soon that attention became suffocating.
"Slowly but surely he got more controlling and then I wasn't able to see my friends," said Corinne. "He had a lot of friends though. I wasn't allowed to have friends but he was."
Despite her family's disapproval Corinne stayed with him for a year and a half.
"I knew he was a bad influence," said Corinne's brother, Lambert. "I knew he wasn't going to do well or finish so I didn't want this to happen to her too. I didn't want her to drop out maybe get pregnant or anything like this."
It ended one winter day when Corinne's boyfriend hid her boots and refused to let her go home.
"He actually punched me in front of his friend," said Corinne, who knew then she couldn't stay in that place alone with her boyfriend. "I told his friend, 'You're not leaving this place without me,'" she said.
Corinne finally left that apartment -- and left her boyfriend behind.
"It's a terrible feeling, being kept hostage like that, somebody having control over you like that. It's horrible and I hated feeling like that."
Students admit to seeing abuse often
Nidhi Shukla is a high school student working on a project about teen dating abuse, and is in charge of a performance aimed at creating discussions among teenagers about the taboo topic.
"To think that it's happening to teens and we don't even know about it... It's never been brought up," said Shukla.
Nidhi's friends, all in their final year of high school wouldn't admit to being abused themselves, but said they have all seen signs of someone being a victim.
"I've seen, through Facebook, there's relationships where afterwards they're bringing them down on their pictures and insulting them. I've seen that kind of thing," said one student.
"Even though you're not getting a physical bruise you can still get really hurt inside and that can sometimes be even worse," said another.
With recent gossip column headlines about Rihanna resuming a relationship with Chris Brown after he beat her, role models for young love seem in short supply.
"It doesn't really teach us how to relate in real-life older relationships," said Nidhi.
Empowered women still submit
Guidance counsellor Sheila Southon says she has seen young women become empowered over the past two decades, only to surrender to controlling boyfriends.
"Throughout the years... I've encountered several cases," said Southon. "I find it so ironic that girls actually comply and stay home all weekend while he goes out and does what he wants. Here we are in 2012 and it seems so crazy, you know?" said Southon.
Southon says that it is usually the girls who think they can change a boy who end up being abused.
"Very often the girls who are the most intelligent and have the most compassion who often will go the longest in these kinds of relationships."
Looking for help? There are many resources available
- Women Aware is a nonprofit organization founded by survivors of domestic abuse whose mission is to support those going through the same.
- Kids Help Phone has a special hotline for teenagers. They offer non-judgemental counselling.
- Head and Hands has provided medical, legal and social services to Montreal youth since 1970.
- The West Island CALACS (Centre d'aide et de lutte contre les agressions a caractere sexuel) is a support center for victims of sexual abuse.
- Aimer sans violence offers a quiz for people who are not sure if they are victims of abuse. (French only)
- Tel-Jeunes is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for all teens and children in Quebec. (French only)
- The Montreal Assault Prevention Centre teaches verbal and physical self-defence courses.
- The Regroupement Quebecois des CALACS offers help for people across Quebec. (French only)