So the other day I was blessed and lucky enough to meet a very successful, Emmy award-winning film production company owner whom I will call… The Dude. So The Dude replied to an inquiry from me asking for pro bono media support. Pro bono because it’s for a great cause: ending teen dating / domestic abuse.
What’s the diff? When you’re a teen, you’re living at home. After you leave home, you’re supposedly an adult. So basically, teen dating abuse is domestic abuse without the possibility of co-habitation.
And if you hadn’t realized that this is a huge problem, check this: according to the US Justice Department, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. One in three teens will experience some type of abuse from a dating partner. Only one in four parents will ever discuss domestic abuse with their teens. In the United States alone, three women will die every single day at the hands of an intimate partner. Domestic abuse accounts for more injuries to women than all other factors combined, including car accidents, muggings, and rape.
Now that I’ve cleared all that up – back to our dear friend The Dude. He is a sporty dude – ESPN awards and memorabilia all over his slickety-sleek office. He loves football, speaks with a thick Staten Islandesque accent and is 100 percent macho man. Except, The Dude wants to help us break the cycle of domestic violence.
So imagine this: 5 super smart, eager and passionate young women squashed into his inner sanctum – he wasn’t expecting a posse – all of us hoping to make a good case and impression on The Dude so he will lend us his video expertise.
He had plenty of questions and they soon became pre-empted with the following phrase: “Now don’t get mad at me, but…” And he began asking us questions such as, “What if the woman is crazy? What if she doesn’t leave because she likes the money? What if the guy has tried everything to get her to calm down?” What if, what if, what if.
It became clear that while he wanted to be sympathetic, he couldn’t fathom the reality of domestic abuse: one partner using a pattern of behaviors to gain power and control over the other. The Dude couldn’t imagine that someone could innocently, blindly become a victim of domestic abuse. He couldn’t imagine that a man could deliberately terrify a woman into staying with him, just because. He was confusing straight up dysfunctional relationships with straight up abuse. He was VERY confused.
We set him straight, though.
The Dude, you see, is a dad. A very new dad. An “I have an 18 month old daughter, do you ladies want to see some videos” dad. Sure we wanted to see the videos! Macho Man got all proud papa on us as we watched his incredibly adorable daughter take her first steps from mommy to daddy. And I instantly realized how to get him to see the light. Here’s how it went:
Me: So, Dude, your daughter’s 18 months old?
Me: So imagine she is now 18 years old. She’s a freshman in college and meets a super cool boy who’s a football hero. Everyone loves him. Even you think he’s a stand up guy. So your daughter is thrilled, because not only is she in love, but her dad, whom she adores, likes her boyfriend, too!
Him: Uh, ok.
Me: So she goes out to a party with Football Hero and after a while she’s talking to another guy on the team who’s dating her best friend. And Football Hero sees her and loses it. Grabs her by the arm VERY hard and yanks her outside. Says, “WTF are you doing? I saw you smiling at him. You want him? F you!” And ditches her for the night – leaves her looking for a ride back to campus.
Him: Ok, stop.
Me: No, no, hold on a sec and let me finish. He makes up with her after a few days. She feels bad, because she is a very sweet girl. Maybe she was wrong to speak to the friend. She won’t do it again. And this goes on for a year. And it happens a few more times except once he smacks her. And guess what, Dude? She might finally break up with him but she will NEVER ever tell you about this. Because she is ashamed of making a bad choice, because she thinks maybe it was in fact her fault, because she does not want you to worry about her, because she does not want to let you down.
Him: Stop! Ok! You win! I will help you. Just don’t make this about my daughter.
Me: Dude, I am here for your daughter.
Ending domestic abuse/teen dating abuse is crucial for the health, success and survival of girls and women. It’s a mission that is, indeed, about everyone’s daughter. It’s also about everyone’s mom, sister, best friend, co-worker – all the women in our lives.
So here are the 8 signs of abuse, which don’t include physical violence, and do include mental and emotional abuse, which you can also find in English and other languages at: www.beautycares.org/signsofdomesticviolence/
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, people can and want to help you right now. Call 1 800 799 SAFE immediately. Don’t even try to fix this yourself. Don’t confuse love with abuse. Abusers are abusive, no matter who and what they encounter.