I was horrified to see the video of Ray Rice knocking out his wife and dragging her out of the elevator. I’m raising a teenage daughter and I want her to avoid ever being involved in a relationship like this. How do I talk to her about this?
With the recent media attention focused on domestic violence within the NFL, it has quickly become clear that this is not a problem just for Ray Rice and his wife. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. In the U.S., a woman is beaten every nine seconds and three women everyday are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. These are truly alarming statistics that cross all socioeconomic levels.
While we need to reach out to victims and perpetrators to break the cycle of violence, we also need to teach our children how to avoid these destructive relationships. One in five teenage girls has been threatened with violence or is at risk of self-harm when trying to breakup with a boyfriend.
I turned to my friend and colleague, Dr. Catherine Cerulli, Director of the Susan B. Anthony Center for Women’s Leadership at the University of Rochester, for some advice on how to prevent an abusive relationship. Dr. Cerulli said, “People need to trust their instincts. Often survivors report there were little signs that their partners tried to cover up, or explain away, but these signs didn’t make sense or fit (what was occurring at the time).”
The National Network to End Domestic Violence has posted on their website (http://nnedv.org) some of the red flags of abuse. Initially, an abuser may act too good to be true which often makes it easy for the couple to rush into the relationship. This may be followed by the abuser saying one thing and then doing another. Ultimately, behaviors may include rages and a lack of taking responsibility for bad behaviors (blaming others). Typical behaviors include: excessive jealously and accusing the partner of affairs, demanding that their partner stop spending time with family and friends, and stop participating in hobbies. Abusers may be highly critical of their partner describing them as ‘stupid’, ‘fat’ and claiming that no one else could love them. Lastly, abusers frequently have a history of battering past partners.
It is important to speak to your daughter about these warning signs and to encourage her to take any new relationship slowly. Be a good role model for all of your children. Many victims of abuse, as well as abusers, have grown up in families where domestic violence occurred. Additionally, it is critical that our daughters grow up with a strong sense of self-worth. While women of all education and socioeconomic levels can become victims of domestic violence, women who believe they deserve the abuse may struggle more to act upon the warning signs. Remind your daughter each day that she is loved and she is worthy of that love.Here in Wayne County, victims of abuse may seek assistance through the Victim Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, www.vrcfl.org. (315)331-1171.