DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: My stepsister and I are both 17 and almost like real sisters. We share a room and lately I see bad bruises on her body. She confided that her boyfriend got drunk at a party and thought she was being too friendly with another guy so he was a “little rough” afterward. She says he apologized the next day and she forgave him. She says it was kind of her fault because maybe she was being too friendly. She wants it kept confidential because if her dad found out he wouldn’t let her see him and would probably “beat the crap out of him.” She says she’s overweight and this is the only boyfriend she’s ever had. I’ve told myself she’s old enough to make her own decisions, but what if something worse happened because I didn’t say anything?

— Woodland

Kira, 20, Moraga: Please tell your parents! A similar thing happened when my sister was raped. She hated me at first for telling our parents, but then she was grateful. Your stepsister needs to end the mindset that this is her fault and that her dad will beat the crap out of this guy. My dad said the same thing, but he didn’t! Find the courage and tell your parents! They can probably talk to her and “get the info” themselves without it sounding like it came from you.

Brie, 22, San Francisco: She could get really hurt. Talk with her about how serious this is. Suggest she see a counselor about her self-esteem. Self-esteem is worsened when an abusive partner tells you how ugly you are and how nobody else would ever want you. If she doesn’t grasp the severity of the situation, tell your parents. She will end up thanking you. You could also take her to a women’s shelter and let her hear first-hand stories.

Katelyn, 19, Huntington Beach: If she feels too ugly to be loved without him, this isn’t love and you should gently confront her about that. She may be old enough to make her own decisions, but this isn’t the right one! Remain emotionally close to her so she isn’t fully dependent on her boyfriend. If the abuse happens again, tell your mom and the authorities.

Ryann, 16, Tustin: Drinking is no excuse for hitting your girlfriend. By forgiving him, she only enables him to do it again. Please take this to the school counselor or your mom. Most victims don’t take action until it’s too late. Though it will cause bumps in your relationship, helping her is the most unselfish thing you could do.

Alex, 17, Boulder, Colo.: She wants to continue the relationship and he has apologized. That should count for something. I give her credit for not “snap” labeling him an abuser. Why not tag along with them and get a deeper opinion of him? While it’s right to protect your stepsister, don’t overdo it. If you reach out to an adult, pick one who won’t overreact.

DEAR WOODLAND: If there’s anything I support “snap” decisions about, it’s guys beating their girlfriends. This is a zero-tolerance issue. Teen dating violence is as serious as adult domestic violence. According to the National Dating Abuse Hotline, one in three high school relationships involves physical or sexual abuse. You think your stepsister’s self-esteem is low now, if she doesn’t break up and get therapeutic help, you’ll need an electron microscope to find it in five years. The key is getting her help not punishment. Don’t delay telling your parents or call the National Dating Abuse Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE. Without intervention, something worse most likely will happen.

— Lauren

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