In Kids & Family

Milwaukee's teen sex abuse baffles expert

Milwaukee has a beanstalk-high teen pregnancy rate -- the second highest in the country and the highest among African American girls -- and more than one in seven local girls says she's been raped, many of whom were under 15 at the time.

Why does Milwaukee have such staggering teen sex statistics?

"I've been thinking a lot about it, but I have to tell you, I don't have an answer. I can't even imagine," says Dr. Jill Murray, the author of three books on teenage abusive dating relationships who appeared on more than 200 TV shows.

Murray took the stage with Police Chief Nan Hegarty earlier this week and spoke to women philanthropists at the United Way of Greater Milwaukee's Women's Initiative Fall Event called "Healthy Girls Matter."

"Usually I have some idea (as to why the statistics are so high in a city), but in this case I don't have an answer," she says.

However, why Milwaukee has such a problem with teen sex abuse is not as important as how to prevent the sexual abuse of teenagers.

Murray says knowing the facts is the key. Most abusive relationships between teens have a dominant male and submissive female, but not necessarily. So parents of sons, look for the warning signs. Also, she says most abuse among teens is verbal, mental or spiritual, not physical.

"If parents just look for bruises, they'll miss 300 signs that their child is being abused," she says.

Abusive relationship warning signs, according to Murray, are many. The victim might become completely isolated and pull away from friends and family until the abuser is the only person in his or her life. They may also make excuses for the abuser's behavior, cry a lot or receive incessant cell phone, e-mail or instant messages from their abuser.

After speaking at the United Way, Murray spoke to teens at Sarah Scott Middle School for the Health Sciences, 1017 N. 12th St.

"Parents need to teach their children that love and sadness or love and fear never coexist," she says. "Love is a behavior, not a feeling. That's my mantra."

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