But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships

But I Love Him: Protecting Your Teen Daughter from Controlling, Abusive Dating Relationships

by Jill Murray, Jill Murray

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Is Your Daughter in Danger? One in three girls will be in a controlling, abusive dating relationship before she graduates from high school -- from verbal or emotional abuse to sexual abuse or physical battering. Many young women -- and their parents -- aren't even aware of the indications of a potentially abusive relationship. What's most alarming is that these…  See more details below


Is Your Daughter in Danger? One in three girls will be in a controlling, abusive dating relationship before she graduates from high school -- from verbal or emotional abuse to sexual abuse or physical battering. Many young women -- and their parents -- aren't even aware of the indications of a potentially abusive relationship. What's most alarming is that these warning signs are also some of the behaviors that girls find most flattering: A boy pages and calls a girl often -- but as a form of control, not affection. He wants to spend all his time with her, but eventually he won't allow her to spend time with her friends. He says "I love you" very early in the relationship.

These behaviors can escalate into blame, isolation, manipulation, threats, humiliation, and sexual and physical abuse. In But I Love Him, Dr. Jill Murray identifies these and many other behaviors and helps you get your daughter out of the relationship without alienating her. You will learn what draws her to this type of relationship, the special barriers teens face when breaking off such a relationship, and what's going on in the mind of the teen abuser. Dr. Murray helps you show your teen what a respectful relationship looks like -- and teach her the importance of respecting herself.

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Our Review
Seventeen, in Love, and in Danger

As a leading authority on abusive teen-dating relationships, psychotherapist Jill Murray's appearances on TV and radio talk shows, including Oprah, have prompted thousands of calls, letters, and emails. Now Murray has put her vast knowledge and experience into a book aimed at tackling this alarming problem. But I Love Him is an apt title as it represents the sort of excuse used by so many young women in abusive relationships -- women who are caught up in the throes of denial and who define love as a type of behavior. This is a must-read for any parent, as Murray emphasizes prevention as strongly as she does correction.

The statistics are shocking. More than a third of high school and college students surveyed say they have experienced violence in a dating relationship. About half of all dating women have suffered physical, emotional, verbal, and/or sexual abuse from their partners. One quarter of female homicide victims are between the ages of 15 and 24, and a third of all women murdered in the U.S. die at the hands of their boyfriend or husband. Clearly, relationship violence against women is a serious problem. And for many, it begins during the teen years, when emotions and hormones are both running high and dating habits are developed.

Murray attacks the problem using a three-pronged approach. The first is learning to identify the types of behaviors and situations that are a precursor to an abusive relationship, including how a boyfriend behaves, the type of home environment he comes from, and how a daughter caught in an abusive relationship might behave. The second step involves taking a hard and objective look at one's own family environment, identifying problematic behaviors and negative influences and making whatever changes are needed to promote trust, open communication, and harmony. The third step is learning what parents can and can't do, legally and otherwise, to rescue their daughters from abusive relationships.

Murray's coverage of the issue is extensive and dynamic. She addresses everything from minor verbal abuse to physical battery, from the type of behaviors that can help parents spot a potential abuser to the medical, legal, and psychological interventions available if such a relationship already exists. But I Love Him not only helps parents understand what motivates these young men and women. In the long run, it could save their lives.

--Beth Amos

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.82(d)

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Chapter One

What Is Teen Dating Abuse?

Abusive dating relationships and dating violence have increased at alarming rates in the last five years. It is estimated that one in three girls will have an abusive dating experience by the time she graduates from high school. In my professional experience--counseling girls and their parents in this situation--this is a gross underestimation. By this conservative figure, more than eight million girls per year in the United States alone will suffer at the hands of a violent boyfriend before their eighteenth birthdays. Teen abuse is epidemic. In America today, every nine seconds a teenage girl is battered by someone with whom she is in a relationship. What is most alarming is that the signs of potential abuse are also behaviors that young women find most flattering.

I'm sure you never thought you'd be reading a book about teen dating violence. I'm also sure you never imagined that your daughter would be involved in an abusive relationship. Oh, you may have worried about other potential problems: pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and drunk driving. But it probably never entered your consciousness that your own daughter could be involved with a boy who is verbally, emotionally, sexually, or physically abusive. Give yourself a break. No parent wants to think of emotional or physical harm coming to her own child.

The University of Michigan Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center in Ann Arbor defines dating violence as "the intentional use of abusive tactics and physical force in order to obtain and maintain power and control over an intimate partner." There are three key words inthis definition. Intentional is important to understand because it is clear that your daughter's boyfriend is cruel to her on purpose. As we will discuss further in chapter 6, violence of any sort is a learned behavior and completely voluntary. No one forces a teenage abuser to behave as he does, and it is totally within his power to stop. Power and control are also crucial words. Like adult batterers, the teen abuser uses tactics of control and coercion to keep his "victim" tied to him.

Before we go any further, I would like you to consider a few questions regarding your daughter's relationship with her boyfriend. If you recognize some of these warning signs in your daughter's relationship and feel that she may be in serious danger, please call your local police or sheriff's department or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.


  • Before my daughter met her boyfriend, she had more friends than she does now.
  • Her grades have declined in the past weeks or months.
  • Before she started dating him, she was more outgoing and involved with her family, school activities, and/or place of worship.
  • She frequently cries or is very sad.
  • If he pages her, she must call him back immediately.
  • He told her that he loved her early in their relationship.
  • He is jealous if she looks at or speaks casually with another boy.
  • He accuses her of behavior she doesn't actually engage in.
  • He is aggressive in other areas of his life: he puts his fist through walls or closets, bangs his fist to make a point, or throws things when angry.
  • He frequently roughhouses or play-wrestles with her.
  • She makes excuses for his poor behavior or says it's her fault.
  • They talk on the phone several times a day or for long periods.
  • He has a "tragic" home life: he is or was physically abused or verbally demeaned, and/or one or both parents are alcoholics or use drugs.
  • He drinks or uses drugs.
  • He frequently gives her "advice" about her choice of friends, hairstyle, clothes, or makeup.
  • He calls her demeaning names, then laughs and tells her he was only kidding or that she's too sensitive.
  • She has become secretive since she started dating him. She is miserable whenever she is apart from him.
  • She has recently become very critical of her appearance, talents, or abilities.
  • She frequently has to explain herself to her boyfriend or often says she's sorry.
  • She has bruises she cannot explain or appears nervous about explaining to me.

In the next three chapters we'll discuss each level of violence in detail so that you will clearly understand the problem your daughter is facing and the ways in which you can help her now. First, however, consider these statistics on teen dating violence:

  • Thirty-six percent of female high school and college students surveyed--more than one in three--said that they had experienced some violence in a dating relationship.
  • As many as 50 percent of dating women suffer physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from their dating partners.
  • The majority of violence (as much as 86 percent) occurs during the "steady"/serious phase of a relationship.
  • Twenty-five percent of female homicide victims are between fifteen and twenty-four years old.
  • One in three women who are killed in the United States are murdered by their boyfriend or husband.
  • Results of recent interviews with approximately fourteen hundred students in rural North Dakota indicate that students from abusive households were twenty-five times more prone to dating violence than those from homes without abuse.
  • Ninety percent of men in prison come from abusive homes.

These are horrifying facts. The bad news is that unless your daughter wants to get out of her relationship, there is little you can do to convince her that's what's best for her. The good news is that throughout this book we will examine the history of her problem--that is, what led her to an abusive relationship--and the ways in which you can go about extricating your daughter from this nightmare.

But I Love Him. Copyright © by Jill Murray. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Dr. Jill Murray is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Laguna Niguel, California. She speaks to thousands of students and parents in high schools around the country each year on the topic of abusive teen relationships, a focus she developed while serving as lead therapist at a domestic violence shelter for women and children. Her appearances on Oprah, Leeza, and radio call-in shows have generated overwhelming response from concerned parents nationwide. She lives in Laguna Niguel.

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