Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

Campus Life talked with Dr. Karen L. Maudlin who is a licensed clinical psychologist and a Christian, to get some advice on what you can do about date abuse.

How do you define “date abuse”?

Basically, abuse falls into three categories: emotional, physical and sexual. They each look a little different.

Emotional: If a guy tells his girlfriend she’s weird, it might bug her, but it’s not necessarily abuse. What is abuse is when he calls her names that are derogatory, belittling or crude. When his temper explodes for no reason, or she’s afraid of him when he’s angry, he’s gone to far. If any of these behaviors sound familiar, it’s time to take a hard look at the relationship.

Physical: Pushing, hitting, shoving, slapping, or any other physical act that is done out of anger, and for the purpose of causing pain, is abuse. No matter how sorry he is after the fact, or how many times he promises he’ll never do it again, it’s likely he won’t change without the help of a professional counselor.

Sexual: A guy who abuses often believes a girl is his property and that he has a right to have sex with her, no matter what she says. Remember, even if a couple has had sex in the past, each of them has a right to stop at any point in the relationship. Any time sex is forced on someone, whether the force is physical or emotional, it is rape and it is wrong. It doesn’t matter what the person is wearing or how long you’ve been dating, the old saying is true: “No” means “No.”

The best dating relationships look a lot like friendships, so ask yourself, “Would I let my friends treat me this way?” If the answer is “No,” it’s time to call it quits.

What can I do about an abusive relationship?

If you think you’re in an abusive relationship, you need to get out—immediately. Tell a trusted adult what’s been happening. They can offer you support and help you decide what steps to take to protect yourself from further abuse. And you need to get professional counseling, especially if you have been physically or sexually abused. Counseling will not only help you get over the pain of past abuse, but will help you develop skills for building healthy relationships in the future.

A person who is being abused may not realize it’s happening. So if you suspect a friend is a victim of date abuse, your care and support can make a real difference. Describe to her what you see and how you feel about it. For example, say to your friend, “You’ve got another black eye. It really hurts me to see you this way.” Or, “I’m concerned about your safety around your boyfriend.”

What about the guy?

There is lots of help available for guys who abuse. They need professional counseling, both individually and in a group setting. If you suspect a guy you know is abusing his girlfriend, tell him what you see and how you feel about it. If you think he will listen to you, encourage him to talk to a counselor. If he seems willing to get help, be supportive. He’s got a long road ahead of him.

How can abusive relationships be avoided?

Awareness is the best tool in preventing date abuse. Girls need to be extra smart about the guys they date, particularly at college or a new school where there are so many new people. To play it safe, spend your first several dates with groups. Stay away from secluded places, like back roads, dorm rooms, or homes where no adults are present. Express clearly what your limits are before a sexual situation arises.

One of the biggest mistakes girls make is giving in to a romantic fantasy. Just because you seem to have a lot in common with a guy, don’t assume he’s your dream man. Get to know each other slowly and learn about the person he is, not the person you want him to be.

Any final advice?

Do what you can to educate others about date abuse. Talk to your school administrators about including information on abuse in health classes. Ask the school counselor to provide information for students who might not seek help elsewhere. Start a peer education program to get the word out that abuse in any form is not acceptable.

If you or someone you know is being abuse, help is available. These national hotlines will connect you with a caring counselor who can help you figure out what to do:

  • 1-800-NEW-LIFE

  • 1-800-422-4453

Campus Life thanks Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., for her advice.