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Why Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month Matters

As a young teen in my first year of high school, there is a lot of ignorance that goes around that makes me really think… whether it’s overhearing a conversation or it’s happening right in front of my face. The topics range from silly confusion over the grade someone got on their math test to serious topics such as domestic violence.

I was sitting in Physics recently when one of the boys in my class who I consider a good friend brought up the topic of Chris Brown and Rihanna’s dating abuse. He said Rihanna was obviously okay with the “abuse” if she went back to him.

Since I volunteer at A Woman’s Place (AWP) and am a very big advocate of preventing domestic violence, it was difficult to not be insulted or become defensive over what I just heard. I tried putting myself in his shoes because I knew he wasn’t familiar with the effects of domestic violence.

There are many reasons that people stay with or return to an abuser. They may fear for the well-being of their children. They may no longer have the support of friends or family because their abuser has spent years isolating them. They may have been taught by their religion or culture that it is wrong to leave and feel guilt about doing so. As appears to have been the case with Rihanna, they may truly love their partner and want to help them.

Yet after explaining that other circumstances that could have been involved, my friend still stuck with his preconceived notion that the “abuse” really didn’t affect Rihanna if she went back to Chris Brown and is now “okay.”

What surprised me with this conversation was not only the true ignorance of what my friend said, but how no one else even seemed to be affected by the conversation like I was. No one said anything that necessarily agreed with his view… no one said anything at all. That day, I learned that people don’t have to speak out loud to show they agree, but sometimes not saying anything at all shows you where they stand. The discussion got me pondering the reaction if other topics were approached the same way. What if I had said, for example, “Slavery obviously didn’t really affect African Americans because we are now united and have the same rights.” The discussion would have gone in a totally different direction. Some people seem to think that since we live in a culture that currently treats women this way that it will always be that way.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in February really needs to be discussed more. We can’t hold people’s ignorance against them because domestic violence prevention isn’t talked about as much as it should be. Chris Brown and Rihanna’s dating abuse may not have happened while they were teenagers, but their relationship makes a big impression on teenagers. These stars are some of teenagers’ biggest idols and they ultimately influence teenagers’ views on dating abuse.

If we come together as a community and show not only teenagers but everyone that dating violence is unacceptable, we can make the message of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month heard all year round.

AWP teen volunteer

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