Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dating Violence That Doesn't Have To Happen

by Diane Dimond

Since when is it okay for your date to scream at you, punch you with a closed fist, bite you, or pull out clumps of your hair? Whoever said it was acceptable to obsessively harangue a date via the Internet or cell phone texting? I'm thinking it is, like, NEVER, EVER okay for anyone to do that to another human being, but apparently not all young people agree with me.

Headlines about a pair of dynamic young singers, Chris Brown and his girlfriend Rihanna (pictured above), and their out-of-control behavior sent shivers down my spine. It seems that every day we learn a little bit more about what happened to leave the beautiful Rihanna bruised and bloodied.

Both these young stars were supposed to appear at the recent
Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Neither made it. On the night before the ceremony Rihanna was found by police in an expensive sports car outside a pre-Grammy party. By all reports she was crying, bruised all over her face, bleeding from her nose and a split lip and she had bite marks on several areas of her body. It wasn’t long before her 19-year-old boyfriend, Chris Brown, had lawyered up and turned himself in to local police.

We now learn this celebrity couple had been fighting for many days leading up to the Grammy telecast. They’d been
seen at a nightclub furiously screaming expletives at each other while a gaggle of record executives (read: Adults) stood around and did nothing.

As a postscript: Chris Brown
issued a mealy mouthed, semi-apology a couple of days later saying he was "saddened" by what happened, but without ever even mentioning Rihanna's name. Did he think the matter should just go away because he apologized? If so, Brown is no better than the serial batterer who keeps telling the spouse, "Gee, honey, I love you. That will never happen again!" Frankly, I was glad to see that two of Brown's big-time endorsement deals (Wrigley's gum and the "Got Milk?" campaign) were pulled after his arrest on assault charges. The investigation, by the way, continues. I wonder if we'll ever see the famous (infamous) Chris Brown in court?

According to battered women's groups that follow such things,
reports of dating violence are up nationwide these days. The New York Times reports that serious and permanent injuries, sometimes even death, have been the result more and more often. I wonder if adults are doing enough to counter-balance the explosive celebrity antics our young people see and read about nearly every day. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Courtney Love, Christian Bale, Dennis Rodman, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston–all involved in tabloid scream fests and physical confrontations. Do our young people think these kinds of relationships are cool? They can’t possibly mistake violent and abusive behavior for true love, can they?

Several states are stepping up to educate kids who are tethered to the Internet and cell phones in a way that makes harassment so much easier than when we were young and dating. In Texas, where
two young girls were murdered by angry boyfriendsone by stabbing, the other by shootingthe school district was ordered to set a strict standard of what constitutes dating violence. In Rhode Island, after 23-year-old Lindsay Anne Burke (pictured left) had her throat slashed by her boyfriend with whom she’d had a “tumultuous two year long relationship,” the state passed a law mandating classes on dating violence for middle and high school students. Indianapolis now trains public school officials to recognize the early signs of abuse following the stabbing and dismemberment of Heather Norris by her boyfriend. In New York City, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene revealed dating violence (or the reports of it) has gone up 40% since 1999.

And its not just abuse by young men against young women. The bullying, verbal abuse, and physical violence works both ways. It happens when one of the people in a relationship has a fundamental lack of self-esteem, a feeling deep within that this is all they are ever going to get, all they deserve. As with an addiction they keep going back for more and more.

My husband and I once took into our home a woman and her two young sons who were fleeing constant domestic abuse. We helped this forty-something-year-old mother relocate, get a job, some state aid, and get her children into new schools. She was about to move from our place into her own apartment–a first for her. Then, one day we came home and she was gone, returned to the husband who’d beaten her for years. She left us a short note saying, in effect, she knew no other life.

Well, we can help make sure the new generation of young people never thinks like that. Our sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, our grandchildren need to know they are valued human beings who always deserve respect. THEY DON’T HAVE TO SETTLE FOR "LOVE" DISGUISED AS ABUSE. That's what Lindsay Anne Burke settled for, and the so-called "love of her life" murdered her.

National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline cites a study that found 1 in 5 teenagers say they’ve been physically threatened by someone with whom they are in a serious relationship. At their Web site www.Loveisrespect.org there is a great teaching tool. It’s a list daters can reference to judge the health of their relationships. Sit down with the young person in your life and go over it with them. Does your boyfriend/girlfriend act jealous, put you down, text you excessively, threaten to kill or hurt you or themselves if you leave, try to stop you from talking to family and friends, force sex or hit, slap, or push you?

Whenever I see media coverage of some celebrity couple’s fight, first, I wonder if it’s really true. Maybe it’s a PR fabrication designed to get some media coverage. But isn't that a sick, twisted way to get some attention? In Rihanna's case, when you’re found outside in the dark, bleeding and bitten, that’s no game. For her it would seem its long past the time to learn some self respect and move on. I saw a headline on a supermarket tabloid the other day which supposedly
quoted Rihanna: “But I Still Love Him!” Ugh. I hope that’s not true.

Violence at the hands of another is not cool, it never will be! It’s dangerous and self-destructive. Our kids should learn that—from us—before it’s too late.


Paralegal Sandy said...

Gosh, it seems like the whole world is going crazy!!! My paster the other day was said...."In the words of that great theologian TINA TURNER, what's love got to do with it?"
Decent relationships take a lot more than love.

Jan C, said...

Violence is violence. Whether the person that hurt you is a stranger or someone you love. Until we realize that, it will continue.

Maybe more education that ALL violence is wrong, regardless of its source, will help change current attitudes.

Leah said...

Excellent post Diane.

The statistics are very disheartening. How do we reach out and change all of this? I grew up with an abusive mother, passive father - yet all three of us [their children] are in healthy relationships. Sadly, that isn't the case for so many.

cheryl said...

Wow, Leah...I grew up in a family pretty much the same as you mentioned. My mother was a very depressed person...her life didn't meet up to her expectations or hopes. She tried, but us children were never good enough.

My father worked as many hours as he could because he came home to drama every night. If I or one of my siblings got caught smoking in the girl's room, there was sure to be a "family meeting" which would last 5 hours.

I ended up marrying at 16 years of age. I kept up with my education as well as I could, received an Associates in Nursing, but I could have done more.

The man I married was abusive in every way. HE was the KING. The absolute opposite of my father, yet the equal of my mother.

Leah said...

My mother was depressed as well and never happy with anything in her life. Growing up with her was sheer misery. I ran away at 16 and never looked back.

Oddly enough my parents finally divorced and my father remarried a wonderful woman who had been married twice already. Not sure if there was a lot of abuse/drama in those families or not but my 2 step sisters are with men who don't physically abuse them but mentally they do. Both of them sufrer from the classic "BUT, I LOVE HIM" syndrome. At least that's what my mom calls it. Some people suffer endlessly in the name of love. I don't get it.

And we think it is mostly middle class and poor people but Whitney Houston and Rihanna are proof that that isn't so.

Sammy said...

You can enjoy advantage of parallel dating too as many options are available depending upon your likes and dislikes.
Embarrassing chance meetings with past lovers, inquisitive co-workers, other dates, etc. become a non-issue.