If you keep up on important current (not terribly current, as SocialJerk went Hawaiian and had no WiFi to post this last week) events, you’ll know that there’s a lot to be concerned about in this country. Number one on everyone’s mind, naturally, is this: Chris Brown is at it again.
A young, spoiled celebrity throwing a temper tantrum? Stop the presses, send in the social workers!
To be fair, this one applies. In recent years, we’ve been hearing more and more about domestic violence being a problem in young people’s romantic relationships. It’s not just for married people. And it’s not just physical. Teens are often jealous and possessive in their relationships, but professionals are being directed more and more to look closer, for the early signs of verbal and physical abuse.
It’s a topic that’s important to talk about, especially with teenage girls.
I was told once that I stereotype along gender lines. So let me put it out here right now–
chill out I recognize that men can be the victims of domestic violence. I recognize that domestic violence happens in same sex relationships. But what I work with? Is women who have been beaten and otherwise abused by men. I also specialize in group work with teen girls, because 1) I like to laugh and 2) I am a glutton for punishment.
When the story first broke, just over two years ago, that 19 year old Chris Brown had punched and bitten his girlfriend Rihanna, my coworker and I saw it as an opportunity. We had a concrete way to talk about this important issue with our girls. And hey, they loved Rihanna! This should be easy.
We started with the infamous picture.
“I love Chris Brown, he mad sexy. And his music’s good.”
Yes, he’s a fine dancer as well, and I really enjoyed his version of “This Christmas.” It’s possible that Gaddafi is a fine painter and likes kittens, it doesn’t mean we should excuse what he’s done.
“Miss, I wouldn’t be surprised if she made those bruises look worse. Like, to get him in trouble.”
True. It’s everyone 21 year old woman’s dream to have her image plastered all over the internet, bloody and bruised.
“We’re not hearing about what she did. Like what she said, or if she hit him too.”
No, we don’t know if she hit him too. (“Hit him too” often translates to “covered her head to ward off the blows.) But we do know that there are photos of her injuries, while photos of Chris Brown’s are conspicuously absent. And, I’m sorry, but what exactly could she have done to have this coming?
“You don’t want a guy that’s gonna like, beat you, but you don’t want a guy that’s a pussy! You need someone who will push you around a little.”
That’s a quote from a 14 year old girl. Burned in my mind, I can never unhear it. Your only options are a guy that will hit you, or a weak man-child who will let you walk all over him. Choose wisely, everyone.
I’d always thought of abusive relationships as something that creeps up on people. Things start out well, you fall in love, then things get tense, someone gets jealous, then gets controlling, someone gets hit, someone apologizes, and the cycle starts again.
I might have gotten some of this from Lifetime movies starring Candace Cameron. Not the point.
I never thought of them as something that people see as inevitable. Call me naive, but I genuinely thought that my tough, sassy, take-no-BS-from-anyone girls would tell me just what they would do to a guy who laid a hand on them. Even if I didn’t have faith that they’d really leave right then, or hit him back until he begged for mercy. I was surprised that they didn’t even pretend.
They saw domestic violence as a part of life. Something that happens. Chris Brown’s statement after this was all made public played into this as well.
“Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired.”
Not, “I am sorry for what I did.” It transpired. It happened. The world spins, grass grows, SocialJerk is sarcastic. So it goes.
When someone sees a certain future as a certainty, it’s hard to dissuade them from that. It’s such a central part of our jobs, letting people know that they have options, and control over their lives. But it’s so hard to do. Especially in an hour a week, for three months, in group.
Maybe they pick up the idea, at least, that it’s not necessary, that there are relationships that exist without violence, and there are people who think that they deserve this.