February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. It is crucial that we educate teenagers and young adults about physical, sexual and verbal abuse. I am conflicted when I see the recent images of Rihanna snuggling with Chris Brown after he beat the shit out of her. The leaked photos of her swollen bruised face are still hard to forget. She and Brown are grown and can do whatever they please. I get that. But the young victims of violence, like Latasha Norman above, make me wonder how much damage those images of Rihanna reuniting with Chris Brown has caused.
Love is complicated for adults. It definitely is not any easier for teenagers to maneuver that battlefield. Young people are so vulnerable during those formative years. They are just learning how to deal with their sexuality, emotions and developing new relationships. I think back to when I was in my teens and early twenties and I am not sure what I would have done if a man/boy I loved or was infatuated with was abusive toward me. Would I have sought help? I honestly cannot say I would have. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and I do not recall a massive campaign back then to empower young women and encourage them to leave damaging relationships. I would like to believe that I would have had the strength and self-esteem to escape an abusive situation. It is not that simple. Abuse can damage your soul. There is no telling what you will do in that situation without the right tools to escape.
The 1 is 2 Many movement, led by Vice President Biden, says that young women suffer the highest rates of dating violence and sexual assault. One in 10 teens will be hurt on purpose by someone they are dating. One in five women have been sexually assaulted while in college and one in 9 teen girls will be forced to have sex. What alarms me about these statistics is that I know that many young women suffer in silence, so these numbers are probably considerably higher.
How do you to a tell a young impressionable woman to get out of a violent relationship when all over the internet she sees that sexy and happy famous pop star who seems okay with reuniting with her abuser? How do you stress to her that she deserves a man who respects her body and mind ALL the time?