by Jeane Cole
One would think that with all the violence around the world, the one place we would be safe would be in our own homes and with our closest relationships. Sadly, that is often not true. Many people still think that controlling others through violence and fear is normal. Unfortunately, often the ones being controlled think it is normal too or that they somehow deserve to be controlled. In a culture where little boys see their fathers abuse their mothers they either grow up to do the same, or they walk away from taking an active, healthy role in parenting. Little girls too will often grow up expecting to be treated the same way they saw their mothers treated.
A lot of these beliefs come from cultural gender inequality which education and more opportunities for both sexes has diminished over recent times. Still, many young people are getting caught up in relationship “intensity” instead of intimacy. When a young teen experiences that first love, emotions can overpower reasoning. Below are some questions to help your teen or anyone who may be walking on dangerous grounds:
- Does he want to keep you all to himself?
- Does he include you in decision making; what to do, where to eat, etc?
- Does he want you to succeed, finish school, have a career?
- Do his words match his actions?
- Does he listen to your ideas, thoughts, beliefs?
- Does he try to make you feel stupid, incapable, or call you names?
- Does he push you into sexual activity you are not wanting?
- Does he make you feel as though you should want it?
- Has he EVER slapped, hit, restrained, or threatened you?
- Has he done ANYTHING to make you fear him?
- Does he take responsibility for his actions?
- Do you have fun together or do you “walk on egg shells”?
There are many other warning signals, but if you feel that the relationship is all about “making him feel good so he will like you”, that in itself is significant. You deserve to be you, and there is someone out there who will like and accept you for yourself. You don’t have to use sex to get the guy. In the long run, most guys want a relationship with someone who is comfortable being herself.
I worked in a battered women’s shelter many, many years ago, and it changed my view of the world. I came to understand that sometimes there is no easy way to get out of a violent relationship. People will say “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Truth is that often that is the time when the violence escalates.
If you are in a relationship that you want to leave and don’t know how, talk with a trusted adult and ask them to not take any action on your part until you have a safety plan in place. If you are a teen, it’s important to build a safety net of people who “have your back”. This can begin by having an honest talk with an adult such as a teacher, coach, minister, police officer, etc.
Examine how you feel about yourself. Everyone needs to know that they deserve respect. If you have been mistreated as a child and witnessed or experienced abuse and neglect, it can lead to unresolved trauma in adulthood which impacts the choices you make. This very often leads to a path of addiction because people want to medicate or escape their feelings. The most important thing you can do is get the help you need to learn that things that happened TO YOU were about the person who did them, and it was not your fault. Someone said “if you can feel it, you can heal it.”
To the young teen guys (and grown men too), I know there are more “good guys” out there than abusive ones. You are the ones who can help to change the culture by speaking out and showing respect for women. Too many stand by and witness inappropriate talk and actions. You don’t have to do this alone; get the guys together and be strong in numbers.
It’s time to change our world and that can only begin by changing our own “back yard”. I invite you to notice all the violence around you, on T.V., in movies, in our language (rule of thumb actually came from a law that allowed men to beat their wives, but they could not use a stick bigger around than their thumb). So, please, it begins with our thoughts; examine your thoughts and notice if you are part of the problem or part of the solution. We all need to feel safe in our homes, schools, and communities.
For help on getting out call Women Helping Women at 513.977.5541 or their 24-hour help line 513.381.5610. You may also visit their web site www.womenhelpingwomen.org