Dear 18-Year-Old Me …

teen prom(Trigger warning for descriptions of abuse.)

The amazing folks at the National Domestic Violence Awareness Month Tumblr are featuring a blog a day for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (February). I was inspired by the post from February 1, authored by “Anonymous, 31″ to offer my own response. Here are both:

Dear 17-year-old me,

Yes, he is cute. Yes, he is smart. Yes, he is sweet and attentive. Yes, you have had a crush on him for a long time. And yes, you think you can help him. But, NO–it isn’t your job to save him. No, it is not a good thing that he is isolating you from your friends and family. No, it’s not okay that he is trying to coerce you into having sex. No, it’s not right that he demands to know where you are every minute and no, it’s not right when he yells at you for being with your mom. No, it’s not okay that he belittles you and blames you for his angry outbursts. And NO–it is not love when he strangles you. Yes, he says he loves you, but NO, this is NOT love. This relationship will totally change the course of your life. Unfortunately, years after the relationship ends, you will still be dealing with the trauma you have endured. BUT–you are not alone. Reach out to others and talk to them. There are people out there who can help you. You don’t need to carry this burden on your own. With others’ help, you will get through this. You will find love, real love, not abuse. And remember, it isn’t your fault that this happened to you.

With love,
Me (Anonymous, 31)

 

And here is mine:

Dear 18-year-old me:

Yes, she is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. Yes, being near her feels like you’re drinking wine instead of breathing air. But, no–it isn’t romantic to get jealous when other guys flirt with her. If she says “no” to fooling around, it’s not okay to wait awhile and ask her again.
If you raise your voice to her, you will feel horribly about it–and she will feel terrified. If you raise your hand to her, you’ll feel even worse–and she will never be the same. The relationship will totally change the course of her life. Unfortunately, years after the relationship ends, she will still be dealing with the trauma she has endured–caused by you. No amount of you feeling badly will be able to change that.
BUT–you are not alone. I know you care for this girl, and for the girls and women in your life. Many other boys and men do, too–many other boys and men are pledging to never commit, condone or remain silent about men’s violence against women. You are about to meet some feminist women who will change your life forever–they will befriend you, challenge you, teach you and confront you. You’ll eventually meet other feminist men and boys, but you’ll meet these women first. And you will never be the same.

See here for teen dating violence resources.

Reprinted with permission

Photo from Flickr user makelessnoise under license from Creative Commons 2.0

Comments

  1. Communicating dating appropriateness to young people is so important. I remember feeling flattered at the special attention my boyfriend showed me with his jealousy and controlling behaviors. I wish I had known that this was a warning sign much earlier in my relationship. I also wish my boyfriend had known his behavior was not healthy.

  2. Patricia Cummins says:

    Thank you for posting this. It puts into words to share with others, perhaps to make them think even a little bit more on the subject and make even a little change. Then maybe more. Education!

  3. Thanks for posting this. We also need a Dating Equality Awareness Month. Almost all dating “experts” are telling women to let the man take the lead. We need to advocate egalitarian dating practices.

  4. About three years ago, I came across a terrific book that explained, in detail, the warning signs of abusive behavior in both hetero and gay relationships. The title is: “Why Does He DO That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I learned a great deal from this book, and it is one I will definitely keep on my book shelf for many years to come. I think teen girls would also benefit from reading this book before they even begin dating, so they won’t be conned by abusive guys who know how to “sweet talk” them.

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