Photo by Molly Hartigan, 21
Did you watch the 54th Grammys this year? Perfect timing—February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. A mere three years ago, R&B artist Chris Brown, 19 at the time, got angry and beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna so badly she had to be hospitalized. At the time, a disturbing number of people, not only men, but also women and many teen girls, blamed Rihanna for the attack. WHAT?! Since when is this physical abuse okay?
Sadly, we, as a society, haven’t seemed to learned much in three years. Chris Brown was invited to perform again at the Grammys this year, as if he were a stellar role model. Clearly, not everyone believes Chris Brown was in the wrong. Take a look at this sampling of tweets we found on BuzzFeed:
“I don’t know why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.”
“I wish Chris Brown would punch me.”
“Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as he wants to, just as long as he kisses it.J”
These nonchalant tweets worry us. Domestic violence is a serious issue. As activists committed to empowering girls, we hope to help society realize these insensitive tweets are not acceptable. And we want girls to know that even if you aren’t in a dating relationship now, you need to know the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Here are some ways you can help:
1. Learn more about dating violence, its symptoms, and how common it is. According to Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline, “Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average.” Don’t know anyone who’s been a victim of dating violence? That’s because only 33 percent of teens in a violent relationship will ever tell someone about the abuse. Many girls find it easier to try to hide their bruises than to tell someone what’s happened or report the incident to the police because they are afraid they will be blamed. So if you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, as a first step, you can help by creating a supportive listening environment.
2. Watch for the warning signs of physical and sexual abuse. According to HelpGuide some warning signs of physical and sexual abuse are: (1) Afraid or anxious to please his/her partner, (2) Frequent injuries caused by “accidents,” (3) Restricted from seeing family and friends, (4) Dresses in clothes designed to hide bruises or scars, such as long sleeves in summer or sunglasses indoors, and (5) Low self-esteem, even if s/he used to be confident.
3. Be aware that physical and sexual abuse aren’t the only types of domestic violence; verbal abuse hits just as hard. According to author Patricia Evans, the emotional pain of being put down constantly by a partner can lead to serious issues, including eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Because emotional pain cannot be seen with the eye, it is harder to pick up on.
4. Show your support for dating violence victims. If you are worried about a friend and his or her relationship, try to talk with her in an open, nonjudgmental manner. Help her confide in a trusted adult. Don’t ignore symptoms when you see them—rather than simply watching the Grammys and ignoring Chris Brown’s past, write a letter to The Recording Academy protesting their decision to allow him to perform.
5. Educate the public. Take Back the Night, is an organization founded in 1975 to make the world a safer place for women of all ages. It aims to spread awareness about violence against women. Women should be able to walk alone, in daylight or after dark, and know that they are safe. Find a Take Back the Night event in your area and join the cause!
Society may think it’s all right to glorify and excuse Chris Brown’s abusive history, but as young women, we cannot allow this behavior to continue. Change starts with you, so make a difference in your own life and the lives of others! If you or someone you know is a victim of dating violence, don’t remain quiet! Speak out—ask someone for help, or talk to your friend or loved one who is experiencing this type of behavior and help them find the resources they need to stay safe.