During our training for young women in high school and college, I will often ask how many of them have boyfriends who:
- Always rifles through their purses.
- Scroll through their call list and text messages.
- Continuously call in to find out where they are, etc.
A predictable percentage of hands go up. What is disturbing is how few of these young ladies recognize these behaviors for what they are. But how could they? Most have no frame of reference.
Additionally, most thought that these and other actions were signs of how much their boyfriend loved them. “He must love me. Look at how focused he is on me. And it’s only me he must care about.”
Once we explain these behaviors for what they really are, all the lights come on. They now have a reference point.
This is when the other set of hands go up and young ladies start asking why their boyfriends:
- Belittle them amongst friends
- Marginalize the value of friends and family
- Seem to want to cut them off from their friends and loved ones. (To mention just a few)
Once we get them to stop “compartmentalizing” , they begin to understand domestic violence or abuse is not the exclusive domain of married couples.
We remind them that in fact dating abuse and dating violence IS domestic abuse and domestic violence.
Knowledge and recognition of behaviors for what they are is a crucial first step. Strategy on how to deal with an abusive boyfriend is the next area we cover. This includes encouraging dialog with parents and others close to the young lady at risk. … And most importantly of all, is that if a man hits you once he will hit you again.
- We need to remind our daughters that quite often what ends up as domestic violence within a marriage started out as dating abuse and violence long before vows were exchanged.
- We all need to remind ourselves that dating and domestic abuse and violence are not always “other peoples problems” that “happen somewhere else”. Denial will not make this problem go away.
- We need to be proactive and empower our daughters with the knowledge to spot abuse and abuse pre-indicators early.
- We need to continue to build their self esteem and confidence so that they may extricate themselves from a potentially negative relationship before the cycle of abuse sets in.