When Dating Turns Dangerous

“Each year, approximately 2.3 million people in the United States are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.” – from TheSafeSpace.org

Growing up, I was taught by the adults in my life that dating was fun and carefree. You’d go to a movie, share a pop, maybe hold hands, and, if you’d been seeing each other long enough, maybe, just maybe, you’d kiss on the front stoop before heading in for the night. Romeo and Juliet’s story still held the power to warm my heart, and I truly believed in fairy tale endings. In fact, I believed in fairy tale endings so powerfully that I honestly believed men lived by some hidden code of honor that prevented them from treating me disrespectfully because I always presented myself as a nice, moral girl.

Clearly there are a lot of things wrong with this perception, which followed me all the way into my teenage years. Forget the fact that it was completely unrealistic — it was downright dangerous.

The Golden Rule is great in a pay-it-forward kind of way, but it’s not a guarantee in life that those you’ve treated well will treat you well in return. So, while I feel it’s important for adults to teach children to do unto others, I think many adults are omitting an important life lesson while they’re telling their kids to be nice to other kids: how to say no when the situation deems it appropriate.

Don’t get me wrong, parents tell their kids to say no all the time, but what they’re not always telling their kids is how to go about doing that. Remember the days when your friends’ opinions meant everything and your reputation dictated the majority of your behavior, good or bad? Yeah, saying no wasn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Now imagine what teenagers go through when dating becomes more than just a potential kiss on a doorstep. Imagine the stakes have been raised, and imagine the word “no” has lost its power. What now?

I was shocked and a little wistful when I started seeing public service announcements on TV teaching teenagers the signs of an abusive relationship. How would my life have been different if I saw PSA’s that showed me in live action what it really looked like to be in an abusive relationship — that abuse doesn’t always involve yelling or hitting but can be much more subtle. Would I have realized being told who I could hang out with and when I could hang out with them was wrong? Would I have recognized the signs that I was being isolated from friends and family?

I don’t know if my life would’ve turned out any differently, but I hope these PSA’s and websites help teens today recognize the signs of abuse and, ultimately, break away from something that could leave permanent scars on their psyches. Sites like LoveisRespect.org and TheSafeSpace.org provide some really great resources, like the signs of an abusive relationship and how to get help if you are in an abusive relationship. I encourage everyone to check them out — regardless of your age or relationship status. Educate yourself on a dangerous and even deadly issue so you can prevent it from happening to you or someone you love.

And never be afraid to ask for help.

Love and spoiled innocence,



~ by Mika Doyle on October 8, 2010.

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