The Reality of Teen Dating Violence
There are many themes that intertwine in Forgiven Are the Starry-Eyed... believing in love, coming of age, friendship, betrayal, heartbreak, self worth, but the overarching storyline is focused on teen dating violence. In my opinion, this topic is drastically underrepresented in modern media. You occasionally hear stories about domestic violence in adults and the brave women and men of the #MeToo movement have courageously brought sexual assault to the forefront, but considering how prevalent teen dating violence is, it is shocking that it's not amongst the top headlines of every outlet. A new study shows that 60% of adolescents have been victims of abuse from a dating partner. And according to loveisrespect.org, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average. We have to do better. And that starts with talking about it.
Andrea's journey throughout Forgiven shows how easy it is for a young, vulnerable person to get swept up by the initial charm of a troubled, angry peer and lose oneself in the process. By the time the red flags start appearing, it's usually too late. The toxic cycle of shame that keeps us silent has already begun, the seeds were planted long before, and everything and everyone around us normalizes this behavior. "That's what boys do," "Did you provoke him?" "Are you exaggerating?" "He would never do something like that," "Do you have proof?" are just some of the nagging questions we're bound to face that keep us from speaking up. Plus, when the two people involved are teenagers, it's easier for those around them to minimize the situation due to the victim's age and lack of experience. But that is never the right call. Minimizing abuse in any form to any person of any age will only succeed in further traumatizing the survivor and encouraging the abuser.
In my opinion, the first step to fight against the harrowing statistics of teen dating violence is to set up a culture that enables survivors to come forward and share their story, knowing they won't be met with judgement or "you should have" statements. And then the next step is to believe survivors. Believe it or not, those simple things can make a world of difference, and then slowly but surely we can begin to change the culture on a broader scale. The world will change if we do.
Click here for downloadable resources on how to build a support system in your school or community, learn how to set boundaries, take quizzes to identify the health of your relationship, know your relationship rights, and much more.