Reading, Writing, Arithmetic And So Much More…

February 3, 2010

He was my dream boy. Ever since I was six, I had fallen in love with the evil character in an old movie, making my parents watch the DVD almost every day so I could fantasize about my life with this fictional man. I thought he was handsome and mysterious; strong and protective. I didn’t care if this character was evil and treated women poorly – he was so cute! When I entered college, I never expected to meet a guy who resembled my fictional love in any way. But here he was, this amazing picture of perfection, instantly stealing my heart. And of course, I was forced to admire him from afar … in the cafeteria.

When this man asked me out, I immediately said yes, knowing absolutely nothing about him other than the fact that he sat with the same group of friends each evening for dinner (and that there were no girls present). For so long I had waited to meet a man who fulfilled my childhood fantasy, and now I had finally found him.

Our relationship was doomed from the start. I was so mesmerized by his looks and who I wanted him to be, that I was constantly forced to ignore who he actually was. I never stood up for myself in the relationship when something bothered me; instead, I would shrug it off and pretend it never happened, afraid that if I confronted him that he would break up with me. He enjoyed getting drunk, and (as I would eventually discover) could be considered an alcoholic. Every time we argued, he would send me dozens of text messages and leave me rude voicemails, telling me to “answer [my] damn phone.” One time he sent me thirty text messages, each one repeating the same word: blah (this of course occurred after I kicked him out of my dorm room for passing out and peeing twice in my bed from being so drunk).

Every time something bad happened in the relationship, it was my fault. He would cancel plans on me last minute to hang out with his friends and then be mad at me for being upset. He would say “fuck you” to me during a date when I asked him not to drink. He would apologize and then get angry, screaming at me and telling me I was useless. I thought all of this was normal because I had never been in a healthy relationship before. If only I had known the warning signs, then I could have ended the relationship before I was physically assaulted.

Like so many young girls, I was not educated on the characteristics of healthy relationships. I thought it was normal for a guy to text me fifty times in a row and order me to answer my phone every time he called. My previous relationship had been verbally abusive as well – how was I to know what a normal, healthy relationship consisted of? February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and I want all females to know that it is never okay for someone to treat you like this. You do not deserve to be controlled or have someone continuously put you down. I thought life would be worse off without my dream man; but now that the relationship has ended, I am a much happier and lively person. No one deserves abuse. You are worth so much more than that, and you deserve to be treasured by a truly honorable man.

Teen dating violence comes in many forms. It can be verbal or physical. You don’t have to be physically touched to be assaulted. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, females ages 16 to 24 are more vulnerable to violence from intimate partners than any other age group. Although many cases of dating violence remain unreported, approximately 1 in 5 female high school students have reported being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner, according to a study by Jay Silverman conducted in 2001.

What astonishes me is that, according to a study by the Family Violence Prevention Fund, 81% of parents do not believe teen dating violence is an issue. Eighty-one percent! And 54% of parents have not spoken to their children about dating violence. This is outrageous. Over half of reported rapes occur among teenagers. As a parent, how can you not talk to your children about dating violence? This is such an important issue and should not be understated. If parents won’t educate their children about abuse and dating violence, then who will? It took the school systems so long to even require sex education … who knows how long it will be until safety education is mandated. We all think it will never happen to us … until it does. And when it does, we are forced to deal with the emotional (and physical) consequences of what has happened. Wouldn’t you want to invest in your children’s future by giving them the necessary tools to understand abuse and protect themselves? I encourage all individuals to learn the facts about the prevalence of abuse. This document, compiled by the National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiative highlights some of the most astonishing facts. Please, read this if you do not believe dating violence is an issue or occurs:

http://www.abanet.org/unmet/teendating/facts.pdf

Education isn’t just about math, English, and science. Education encompasses life skills as well. Safety prevention, awareness, and self-defense are all life skills that every young girl should possess. For more information on training and outreach, please visit www.projectsafegirls.com.

Bethany

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