The news that Chris Brown was arrested for violently attacking his girlfriend Rihanna shocked the world Sunday night, overshadowing all the Grammy hype. New details have emerged indicating that Brown actually choked Rihanna into a state of unconsciousness, and reports of "bite marks" and "contusions" add to our collective dismay. And so the spotlight shines on something that goes on every day all around the world - domestic violence. In this case though, it's not an older married couple: Rihanna is barely out of her teens and Brown himself is only 19. Dating violence among young people is something that is, in fact, all too common. Here is one girl's story ...
As tweens become teens, the dating world drastically changes. In our culture, teens are starting to date exclusively at a young age (because, you know, they're so ready for it). I was 14. My first boyfriend bragged that he had me in "the palm of his hand." And he did. He constantly attacked me, put me down and criticized the way I looked. He even pushed me around once while we were fighting. I admit that although my bruises have healed significantly, and I have grown from what happened, my skinned heart still exists to this day.
The Chris Brown situation reminds me that what happened to me is, unfortunately, not uncommon.
Dating violence has risen by more than 40 percent since 1999, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Heather Norris, a beautiful girl from Indianapolis, was 17 when she met her boyfriend and 20 when he killed her.
According to William S. Pollack, a Harvard University psychologist and the author of the article, "usually when adolescent boys get involved with girls, they fall into the societal model which we call ‘macho,' where they need to show they are the ones in control."
I fell under a control spell because I thought I was "in love." How could I have ever thought that I knew what love was at 14? More importantly, how could I have thought I was in love with someone who treated me a toy that he loved to hate? I subjected myself to emotional destruction, which led to a deep depression. All I wanted to do when I wasn't at school, if I could even motivate myself to get up in the morning, was sleep. I constantly felt inadequate, wanting to better myself but not feeling as if I had the strength. I was so alone. I even felt abandoned by my family, who didn't seem to have compassion for what I was going through. All they saw was that their smart little girl was turning into a screw up.
I eventually broke things off with him when I found a new group of friends, only to find that I was an emotional wreck, incapable of a healthy relationship or frame of mind. I moved across the country to live with my dad. I ran away, which I never should have done, but I didn't know what else to do. That didn't last, and I was back to deal with my issues about six months later.
I've seen Chris Brown talk about how he watched his mother's boyfriend beat her. He spoke about this on the Tyra Banks Show in 2007:
"Some people, their families go through domestic violence and stuff like that. I don't want to mention the person's name but there was somebody who hurt my mom. Me having to deal with that from the age of seven all the way through to 13, me seeing that and being visually abused by it - it affected me."
I would think that seeing your own mother go through this would stop you from ever even coming close to touching a woman inappropriately. However, I know that children are impressionable, and perhaps seeing this happen makes it OK in their subconscious minds (that's my opinion, at least). My first boyfriend was similar to Brown in the sense that he grew up experiencing abuse in the household. No matter the circumstances, the person's childhood, or their bull$#!% justifications, abuse is abuse, and it's always wrong. The emotional damage alone is enough to wreck someone's life.
Every relationship I have been in after that has endured my self-esteem issues because of his control issues. I still struggle to trust, and I am afraid that if I surrender to someone else, it will happen again. I was deeply wounded from my experience, and it took me years to get my self-esteem back.
Part of this recovery stemmed from a few e-mails we exchanged after the fact: He didn't even realize how brutal he had been to me because of all the drugs he's done. He couldn't even remember! Maybe it's just the fact that he's an ignorant, emotional train wreck who pretends he can't remember, but instead of pure anger, I feel pity toward him now. I can realize and accept all of what happened, go forth with the lessons I've learned and start to let go. I'm hoping more compassion and forgiveness will come with time.
Though that's the decision I reached, I realize not all sufferers feel this way. I know it won't be easy, but I hope Rihanna can learn from the abuse she experienced too. The scariest part about this pressing issue is that some girls, like Heather Norris, don't even get that option.
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