For the last ten years February has been designated as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to loveisrespect.org, one in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Bright Alternatives believes we can change the culture in which society gives our teens permission to hurt others, such as reality shows, movies, and music.
If you were to put on a winter glove and tried to bend your index finger down, what would happen to the rest of the glove’s fingers? They would move down with them. That’s much like how our body is connected physically, emotionally, sexually, socially, mentally, and spiritually. But our youth of today seem to mostly be seeing one side of reality: whatever the media throws at them.
It’s much like playing with a punch balloon and having someone punch you in the face multiple times before they stop, only the media never stops! Search a video on YouTube, and you will see several suggested videos on the right hand column. Some will be relevant; how many are not relevant? They are the videos that YouTube wants you to view. “Like” a post on Facebook and suddenly all the sponsored ads change before your very eyes. Why? To throw a product in your face. It’s like this with television, other social media sites, music, magazines, and even video games.
Our tweens and teens need to learn what true love is, not what is portrayed in the media. Love is not the ooey-gooey feelings of infatuation. Love is not filled with jealousy or fear. It is not possessive or controlling; it does not criticize, shame, or guilt. Love is never violent and does not use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress. It does not break promises or act abusively.
Sometimes we think we know what love is, but then it feels “off.” We can’t put our finger on it: he buys us gifts and helps with homework or work, but then starts texting constantly and checking up on us frequently. He gets mad if we don’t answer right away. He might even tell us how to dress, how to do our hair or even our makeup. Before we know it the relationship is strained, and there is name-calling, false accusations, mood swings, irrational anger, and a lot of stress. This is where it can get worse.
Without intervention (or breaking off the relationship), the emotional and mental abuse can escalate into physical abuse with slapping, kicking, punching, hair pulling, and burning. You might find your phone locked so you can’t call someone for help. Your Facebook password might be changed so you can’t talk to your friends on messenger. These types of relationships do not improve over time; they get worse.
What is true love? It is mutually respecting each other while displaying trust and honesty. It is supporting each other’s decisions and being fair when there’s a disagreement. You have your own separate identities from each other – your own friends, hobbies, and extracurricular activities. You have good communication skills and patience with each other.
Love shouldn’t hurt.
If you would like to learn more, please call 585-593-0300 or 814-368-3388 to talk to someone who cares about your wellbeing. If you are a school, organization, or youth leader and would like a special presentation for your teens or tweens, please reach out to us. We would be happy to come to your location and help your students create a game plan to navigate their way to healthy relationships.