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(It's not) Love (if it) Hurts
The following is a list of warning signs for potentially abusive relationships.
Abuse of alcohol or other drugs
Get into fights or destroy property
Nag or force you to partake in sexual acts when you have made it clear you don’t want to
Are physically rough with you
Blame arguments and problems on you
Compare you to former partners
The following is a list of excuses to make for the warning signs of potentially abusive relationships.
He’s just having a good time, everyone blacks out once in awhile
He was having a rough night, he was bound to lash out on someone or something
He’s just pushing for sex because he loves me and sleeping with him makes our relationship more real
He’s not usually like that, I’m sure he’ll never hit me again. He promised he wouldn’t
It’s okay! What happened really was my fault, I have to be mature and take responsibility for hurting him
His last girlfriend was his first love, he can’t help but base our relationship off of that
They say that love is blind, and that’s all very romantic. But they never warn you that it’s also deaf and senseless and willing and vulnerable and consistently in denial and sometimes, just not love in the slightest. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse in a relationship every year. One in 10 high school students are hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s easy to look at bruises and blood stains and categorize them as abusive. But what about the marks you can’t see? How many abuse victims will neglect to come forward because their injuries cannot be seen? Because they’re afraid of being invalidated and being called “overdramatic”? The reality is that alongside physical abuse, emotional abuse is way too common in adolescent relationships. There’s highs and lows in every relationship, but where do we draw the line? Countless people will make excuse after excuse for their significant other no matter the cost, because nothing seems to feel as painful as being without them.
When I turned sixteen, a boy I’d been friends with since my freshman year texted me to wish me a happy birthday. He was a senior when I met him, so the thrill of a 19 year old wishing me a sweet sixteen seemed very exciting. He asked me on a date that same night, but I knew the age difference would give my mother a heart attack, so I politely declined. He was persistent, and his desire to pursue me was flattering. The word no was clearly not in his vocabulary, which I thought was sweet… at the time. When I finally gave in, I pretended it was reluctant, but truthfully I could not be more excited to spend time with him. Soon enough I started to follow him around like a lost puppy, and I knew he liked that. He seemed liked the be all end all and I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I wasn’t very confident at the time so pretty much whatever he said went. Where he wanted to eat, what movie he wanted to see, what party he wanted go to, what he wanted to do after the party when he was “too f***ed up to go home alone.”
Making excuses for him was increasingly easy.
“You’ve never dated someone older so you wouldn’t understand.”
“He’s not sleeping with his ex, he loves me.”
“He doesn’t even drink that much!”
“He would never hit me!”
So imagine, you’re trapped in this back and forth. You’re overpowered, you’re scared, you aren’t safe, and you think it’s love. Say you survive all of that and you finally get out of that “relationship.” And the first person you confide in about all of this, looks you in the eyes and says, “Well, you’re stupid for staying with him if that’s how he was treating you.”
We as a society consistently write off adolescent relationships because we say they’re “not real.” We take sex ed simply as a formality. Our dating abuse prevention club is just a title to add to your resumes and transcripts. We have 15 year olds getting sexually assaulted by their first loves because no one felt the need to sit them down and explain what a “real” relationship is. We’d rather ridicule them for losing their virginity before high school than educate them on how to say NO to their significant other. In classrooms they will teach you about the Rape of Nanking but they will not teach you that history can be repeated on his living room couch. Girls will be called s***s and w****s over sleeping with their friend’s boyfriend but no one will acknowledge the fact that they really were sleeping when it was happening. God forbid the empty bottle of vodka or her short skirt.
Abuse prevention should be in the curriculum right between quadratic equations and organic chemistry, but instead we walk past sophomores with boyfriends in college and pretend not to see the bags under their eyes. Live and learn is a lesson for when you burn your hand on the stove, not for unknowingly allowing someone to steal your innocence and call it love. I had to be abused in order to understand what abuse is. I’m nauseous and exhausted watching girls and boys my age and younger be dragged around high school on a short leash in the clutch of an upperclassmen who gets off on a dominance complex. It’s time to alter the statistics. To teach high schoolers that LOVE is RESPECT. It’s time to prevent the preventable and keep our friends and students safe from a lack of understanding. To adjust the way we look at abuse and manipulation in adolescent relationships. It’s time to make a change.
They say that love is blind, but how long are we going to pretend we can’t see what’s going on right in front of us.