Dear 18-Year-Old Me…

(Trigger warning for descriptions of teen dating violence.)

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.

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Ben is a spokesperson for the National Organization for Men Against Sexism ( and is a public speaker on issues of violence prevention. He has given performances and presentations in 44 states, Canada, England, Turkey, China, South Africa and the Czech Republic. Ben has spoken and performed at colleges, high schools, public theatres, conferences, houses of worship and juvenile detention facilities. For the past twenty years, Ben has worked as a prevention educator for rape crisis centers, domestic violence programs, and state coalitions. He is an advisory board member for the White Ribbon Campaign in the United Kingdom.