There are some things even awesome dance moves can’t excuse

5 04 2011

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.

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6 responses

5 04 2011
Scott

Welcome back!

5 04 2011
socialjerk

Thanks very much!

5 04 2011
Crystal

I may not be a social worker, but I do work for a social work journal and I love reading your posts, SocialJerk. Glad to have you back (although I’m sure you’d rather still be basking in the sun on a beach).

6 04 2011
socialjerk

Thanks! That’s really nice to hear. I would love to be back on the beach, but in front of a computer with a peeling sunburn is glamorous enough 🙂

6 04 2011
DorleeM

It is very sad how these young girls see domestic violence as inevitable; this makes the chances of it being a part of their lives quite high (although you are meeting with them and providing them with the view that there are men out there who do not behave in this manner and that they are entitled not to be mistreated).

One article you may find interesting to read is: A Woman’s Worst Nightmare by Mary Dickson at http://www.pbs.org/kued/nosafeplace/articles/nightmare.html

Regretfully, it won’t help us feel any better…it states how women are most likely to be hurt by a husband, a lover or a friend (as opposed to some unknown stranger).

It also states how men’s greatest fear is to be laughed at by women; conversely, women fear for their lives (or the lives of their children) – a rather striking difference.

As if that weren’t painful enough, the author, Camilia Paglia, points out how Feminism may argue that men and women are equal/same; hence supposedly, “women can go do anything, go anywhere, say anything, wear anything.” But in reality, they can’t – “Women will always be in sexual danger.”

As much as Paglia may be considered a controversial author, I think there is some truth to what she is saying…as a woman, one has these added concerns/dangers to face from unknown strangers plus the domestic violence issues you mention from the most intimate men in our lives.

Keep up your terrific work with these gals! Every time you convey a positive self-affirming message to them about their rights, you are making a difference, even if it is not immediately apparent.

7 04 2011
socialjerk

I was talking to a male friend about Central Park recently, and how it’s so much safer now than it was when we were kids. I said that I still wouldn’t go there at night, though, and he acted like I was being overly cautious. I really couldn’t get him to understand that it’s different for women–if something happens to you in the park, you’ll probably get robbed, maybe knocked out. For a woman? Much, much worse.

It’s a different kind of violence, but it all stems from a general culture of violence against women, that we seem to put up with.

I think victim blaming is a big part of that. What was she doing in the park at night, why was she dating that violent guy, etc. This is why I don’t really get into the safety stuff with my girls too much. They already know to be afraid. And I wouldn’t ever want them to feel, if something did happen to them (a lot of them have already been victimized in some way) that it was their fault at all.

Thanks for the encouragement 🙂

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