By Kirsten Dalton, Chester Civil and Criminal Court Advocate
We don’t hear much about teenage abuse. It’s common for teenagers to be rebellious and defiant; it’s a normal part of a child’s growth and establishment of their independence. However there is also rage and violence that is happening in homes with teens who are acting out against their parents or other siblings. It is an overwhelming and terrifying situation for parents trying to keep everyone safe.
*Pat and Liz’s child, Sam, started threatening them in grade school, mostly her mother, advising them “to sleep with one eye open” or threatening her mother with a butcher knife. If her parents tried to discipline her, Sam threatened to call CYS or the police on them and make up a story of abuse. The rage and rebellion continued throughout middle school and high school. *Sam often had to be physically restrained to prevent from hurting herself or someone in the home. The physical abuse and threats became much worse as Sam became older and harder to restrain. The emotional strain this put on the household and marriage was tremendous.
A 2017 study suggests that 5-22 percent of families have teenage violence in their homes. However the actual cases are suspected to be much higher due to lack of reporting. There is not much support for the parent of an abusive teen. If the police are called on the child and they are taken into custody, the parents struggle with posting bail for their child who is also their abuser. If the child is criminally charged, the parent is then forced to pay for a defense attorney to defend the child that abused them.
When parents are verbally and physically abused by their children, they don’t have many options. Unless one of the other children in the home is being threatened or abused, there isn’t much child protective services can do to protect the parents. If a parent is seeking long term residential placement for a child that is verbally or physical abusive to the siblings or parents, unless it is court ordered, the residential placement is predominantly an out of the pocket expense for the parents.
For parents who have to decide what is best for their household, it isn’t an easy decision. The emotional effects on the family are extremely challenging, siblings are often torn between loyalty to their brother or sister and the emotional strain on their family. The abuse impacts everyone in the home and finding a productive solution is not easy.
Contact your therapist, pediatrician, school counselor and social worker for support and resources.
The Domestic Abuse Project of Delaware County can help with safety planning and defusing a volatile situation. DAP offers counseling, children’s counseling and a family and child advocate. Call our 24-hour hotline at 610-565-4590.We are here for you.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality