Love Teen Mom or hate Teen Mom, the reality series often shows the darker side of parenting teenagers. Teenage girls get pregnant. Teenage girls get the crap beaten out of them by their boyfriends. Look at Teen Mom 3 star Katie Yeager. New details about boyfriend Joey Maes have come out, alleging that the mercurial father of her little girl has gotten so violent at times that he once broke her nose.
Got that? A teenage girl had her nose broken by her boyfriend. That happened (or at least it's alleged that it happened) in real life.
This is not the puppy love, aww, so sweet, story that comes to mind when we think "teen relationship."
MTV cameras didn't catch that fight, or several others being reported by Radar, but they have shown some scary moments between the two young parents on Teen Mom 3 this season. Two weeks ago, the show ended with Joey tearing the couple's apartment apart while Katie cowered on the couch.
As a mother, it was hard to watch.
Teenage domestic violence is not "just a Teen Mom thing." This is not just something that happens to girls who end up pregnant in high school (to that point there isn't any one type of girl who ends up in pregnant in high school ... sorry, but teen pregnancy knows no socio-economic boundaries).
Katie could be my daughter.
She's smart. She's driven. She's in love with a guy who isn't very nice to her.
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It's a nightmare. You wouldn't wish it on your worst enemy's daughter.
And yet, it's a nightmare parents often don't address until it's too late.
Katie's mom supposedly called the cops on Joey when he got violent, but weren't there signs before that this guy was no good?
I have noticed that parents don't put much stock in teenage relationships. There's an assumption that kids fall in and out of love quickly, and that problems will simply resolve themselves because, hey, they're young; they won't be together forever.
But what we're seeing on Teen Mom right now is that it can be much more complicated than that. Domestic violence isn't just an adult problem. It happens with teenagers too. In fact, the CDC reports 9.4 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend.
It's not epidemic by any means, but that's 9.4 percent too many.
And what are parents to do?
Good for Katie's mom for trying to do something.
Was it enough?
It's hard to say from the outside. I do know I feel for her.
One of the problems with the lack of awareness that this is a true issue for teenagers is that there aren't a heckuva lot of resources out there for parents of teens in abusive relationships. These tips, from the California Attorney General's Office, sound like common sense, but it can't hurt to study them if you're afraid your child is in Katie's shoes:
• Recognize and confront the abusive behavior. Be sure to have specific examples.
• Let him/her know what is not acceptable. While being supportive of your teen as a person and his/her efforts to overcome the abusive behavior, you may have to make the difficult decision to report your teen’s violence to law enforcement.
• Be a role model for supportive, healthy relationships with your own partner.
Put yourself in Katie's parents shoes. What would you do if she was your daughter?
Image via MTV