Let’s skip over my own teen years and go straight to the twelve years I spent with other people’s teen years. In my time with other parents’ teenagers, I was in awe of creativity, frustrated by attitude dripping from drawls, proud of accomplishments others might dismiss, and fearful for so many young lives.
I was fearful for some of my students because of the abusive relationships I saw developing. Girls jumped at text messages, desperate to answer them in time. Sometimes being denied a request to go to the restroom brought on nothing short of a rebellious strut out the door. Later, I’d find out she had to meet her boyfriend at a certain time and place. I’d see a girl’s friends peel off one by one, “freaked out” by the new love’s intensity or direct “advice” about leaving their friend alone. Once or twice I even received visits from boyfriends eager to flex their control, even over the grades earned by their girlfriends. I remember one girl’s defiant smirk as her protector threatened to flatten my (non-existent car) tires if I didn’t raise her grade. Did she really think he was her savior? Or was she just relieved her boyfriend was redirecting his intimidation for a while?
My report about the young man’s behavior included my concerns for my student’s well-being, but the definitions of dating violence are murky to begin with. How does “he wanted her to pass and was willing to threaten a teacher to make that happen” fit in? No surprise: It didn’t. In many states, dating violence doesn’t even qualify as domestic violence.
There’s more, of course, but those experiences — often peripheral and easily overlooked — are part of urge me to support organizations like Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (SOFIA) in my area. This Essex County organization runs workshops about dating violence, recognizing the signs of an abusive relationship, and even how to support someone you suspect is IN an abusive relationship. And yes, no matter where you live or what religion, race, economic status, or any other identifier your friends and family use, you DO know someone in an abusive relationship.
Organizations like SOFIA survive only because of dedicated and generous volunteers and sponsors. Right now, the Purple Purse Campaign is running through October 3rd, 2014 to raise money for domestic violence organizations throughout the USA. If you’re not in the New Jersey area, check out the link above for organizations near you.
Need more incentive? Catch up on other times I’ve talked about domestic violence: