Thursday, December 24, 2009

A time for cheer: Dating Violence and the Holidays.

The holidays are often viewed as the happiest times of the year – a time to rejoice with family & friends. Unfortunately, the holiday season is often a time of increased family and personal stress, which can lead to increased incidences of domestic violence. An article in the Seymour Herald reported eight incidences of intimate partner violence this week, arresting both men and women, ages 21-54. The article sited research by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that there is usually an increase in domestic violence during the holidays due to “family stress”, alcohol and the economic stress that is put upon families during the holidays.

In the past two weeks, we have seen several prominent individuals involved in domestic incidents - from Tiger Woods over Thanksgiving, to Cincinnati Bengals' Chris Henry, who was allegedly involved in a domestic incident that ultimately led to his death. was a lot of news focusing on two domestic violence incidences that occurred around the holidays, one involving tiger woods (on thanksgiving) and recently, the death of the cincinatti bengals chris henry who was involved in a domestic incident which led to his own death.

While stories of celebrities or sports figures can dominate the news cycle, especially as they are fueled by speculation on social media sites such as Twitter, we cannot and must not forget those victims of abuse who go unheard until tragedy occurs. One such story appeared in the LA Times. Brandon Manai, 28, was convicted Thursday in the murder of his 24-year old wife, Julie Rosas. What is alarming from the story is the visible signs of an unhealthy relationship that were present through their brief marriage - incessant phone calls and texts, late night arguments, showing up unannounced to her place of work. These are all acts identified by the Safe Space as indicators of relationship abuse. While someone was unable to help Ms. Rosas before her death - we can still raise awareness and speak up to help a friend or loved one in need.

The Safe Space has special resources to help if you believe someone is a victim of abuse. Click here to learn more. Or, read the story of Marisol and Luis - a young couple whose relationship became abusive.

Of course, if you believe someone's life is in danger - call 911 and report it. Your call could save their life!

Remember, no matter how stressed out someone might be violence is NEVER the answer and has no place in anyone's life. If you are feeling stressed, communicate your thoughts calmly and respectfully. If you need to leave the situation for a while, that's ok! Both you and the person you are dating will be able to address issues more clearly after a "cool down." Be mindful that each person deserves to be treated thoughtfully, with respect to their own privacy and space.

From everyone at Break the Cycle and The Safe Space, we wish you a very happy holiday season and a safe, healthy, happy new year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A New Moon: Team Edward, Team Jacob or Team Healthy Relationships?

So, have you seen New Moon yet? Silly question, I know. If you’re a fan, then the answer is probably “Yes, I’m on a first name basis with the ticket-takers by now.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about New Moon and the entire Twilight series recently. People have been asking me about the appeal of the series, of the relationships, and why so many people are so passion about Team Edward or Team Jacob. After talking with some friends, I think I may have come up with something.

We’ve all heard the criticism of the series and I can’t say that it’s wrong. I’m definitely persuaded by the people who point out that Edward shows an awful lot of the warning signs of an abusive relationship – sneaking into her room without her consent, constant jealousy of other guys talking to Bella, disabling her car to “protect” her, threatening to kill himself if they can’t be together.

Even Jacob, the warm, friendly counterpart to the cold and detached Edward, isn’t as perfect as he seems on the surface. He could transform into a wolf at any minute, particularly if he gets angry or loses control of his emotions. Just look at Sam’s fiancée, Emily, to see what can happen if you’re standing too close when that happens. Jacob even warns Bella that if he gets angry with her, he could lose control and be dangerous to her. That sounds to me like an excuse that I’ve heard from a lot of abusers – it’s not my fault, I lost control.

I could go on and on. There’s no shortage of articles, blogs, and discussions dissecting why Twilight doesn’t portray healthy relationships. We all know that Bella and Edward are not even close to the model of a healthy relationship. And I’d bet that most of us wouldn’t actually want their relationship as our own.

But why is it still so compelling?

I have a theory.

I think it’s Edward’s unwavering feelings for Bella that are so appealing. He thinks she’s perfect, just the way she is. She thinks she’s average-looking, awkward and tragically human. But to Edward, Bella is beautiful, caring, and worthy of his total devotion. He loves her because of her flaws, not in spite of them. Isn’t that we all hope for in a relationship? Love that is secure and stable, that will remain even when we occasionally act tragically human.

Of course, real love takes real communication, faith, and compromise. It’s not as easy as eternal devotion or “imprinting” on your perfect mate. Relationships do end and sometimes we do get hurt. But it’s that uncertainty that makes it so worthwhile, isn’t it? In real life, I’d much rather have a partner who chooses me every day over one who is compelled to be with me by some irresistible force. No question.

I don’t feel guilty about occasionally enjoying the fantasy of a Twilight-style romance because I know it’s not a manual for my real-life relationships. For that, I turn to my sources for good relationship advice, like,
But for a little bit of escape from the real world, I’ll happily turn to a world where eternal love is possible, the only real dangers are werewolves and vampires, and good will always prevail in the end.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

They Just Watched


Due to the serious nature of domestic and dating violence, this posts contains language that is considered graphic.

Last week, a young girl’s life was changed forever. Looking forward to a fun time at a school dance, she probably took her time getting ready wanting to make sure everything was perfect. Maybe she did her hair and put on some make-up. Took a glance (or several) in the mirror to make sure her dress and shoes were just right. Leaving her house, she probably told somebody goodbye, not realizing how significant those words would really be. Then she went to the dance. Probably saw some friends; maybe even danced. And when she left, nothing would be the same.

A 15-year-old was gang raped by at least five guys. For over two hours. Five, ten minutes in a scary situation can leave a mark. What does 120 minutes do to a person when they’re being torn to shreds, physically, mentally, emotionally? I wish no one would ever have to find out.

And it doesn’t end there. Others stood around and watched as this happened. They WATCHED. Maybe they laughed as they cheered the rapists on. Still others heard what was happening and what did they do? Did they call? Not exactly. They stopped by to see for themselves. Some even jumped in. For over TWO HOURS a young girl was RAPED by SEVERAL others. And they just watched. Not until the news fell on one person who understood the horror of it all, did it finally end. Of course, it doesn’t end there for the young girl who lived through it. Her experience of it is only beginning.

Over the past week, people, experts have been trying to make sense of it all. Why did no one say a thing? Why didn’t the witnesses make it stop? But the bottom line is there are no reasons. There is no excuse to do such a thing to someone. There is no excuse not to do something about it. You don’t just ignore it. You don’t just watch.

I wish I could say that this won’t happen again; that it’s the last time a young girl will be hurt in this way. But, sadly, violence against women is happening. A lot. Never be a spectator or just a witness to such a horrible crime. Find a safe way to get help. Find a safe way to speak up.

Learn more about sexual assault and what you can do to help.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Volunteer's Perspective

Hi there! My name is Teresa and I'm a volunteer at Break the Cycle. I am a senior in college, so I can easily relate to a lot of the experiences and challenges that visitors to our website deal with. A large part of what I do includes answering some of the "Ask Anything" emails that we receive from The Safe Space. Although many of the questions we receive ask for advice on how to safely end a potentially abusive relationship, it has become clear that the issue of domestic and dating violence is widespread and affects many different aspects of teens' lives.

There is a wide variety of emails that come in. These can range from one person asking how they can help their friend get out of an abusive relationship, to another person feeling like they have nowhere to go because they have a child with their abusive boyfriend or girlfriend, to another person who has ended their abusive relationship but is still dealing with the repercussions of the abuse. This shows that the issue of domestic and dating violence is very complex; our job is to try to connect these people to resources that can help their particular situation.

As awareness about teen dating violence has increased nationwide, the emails have increasingly indicated that people are learning how to recognize the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Recognizing the warning signs of abuse is very important because if you don't realize there is a problem, how can you fix it? I am glad that teens are becoming better informed about the dynamics of abusive relationships, because education is the first step to prevention. Yet it is clear that we still have a long way to go in educating teens about the issue of domestic and dating violence.

So what can you do? Continue to visit The Safe Space at and encourage your friends and classmates to do the same. There you will find many handouts about various topics related to domestic and dating violence, from information about warning signs of abuse, to how to prevent technology from becoming a tool for abuse, to information about your particular state's laws concerning teens and their rights when it comes to dating violence.

When it comes to answering emails, one thing that I learned is that every situation is unique; what works for one person might not work for another. The important thing to remember is that there are options. And if you can't find the information you need, email us--that is what we are here for!

You can reach us at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 10 ways to Get involved!

Each year in the United States, 2.3 million people are physically or sexually assaulted by a spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.[1] Adults are not the only ones affected by relationship violence, one in three teens reports experiencing abuse in a relationship[2] . With statistics like that it’s almost certain that a friend, a relative or someone you know has been or will be abused in a relationship. Because relationship violence affects everyone, it’s important that we all join the effort to stop it! So what can you do?

Here is a list of ways you can do your part to raise awareness during Domestic Violence Awareness Month:

1. Visit, the most comprehensive dating abuse resource online.
2. Wear a purple ribbon all month to show your support for ending violence.
3. Change your Facebook and MySpace status to “I support healthy relationships – take the healthy relationship quiz!” and attach this link
4. Volunteer your time at a local DV shelter or organization.
5. How has dating violence affected you? Write a blog about it and send it to us we might publish it!
6. Make copies of this poster and ask your local schools, youth-centers and libraries to put it up.
7. Concerned about a loved one's relationship? Talk to them about it!
8. Become a fan of thesafespace on Facebook and friend us on MySpace!
9. Write a letter to your principal telling them you want the school to take action against dating violence on campus.
10. Send this list to as many friends as you can and get them to join effort to end domestic and dating violence!

Check out for more ways you can help to end dating violence!

[1] National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey.” July 2000.

[2] Carolyn Tucker Halpern, Ph.D. et al., “Partner Violence Among Adolescents in Opposite-Sex Romantic Relationships: Findings From the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.” American Journal of Public Health 91 (2001) 1680.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jon & Kate +8?

....................There has been a lot of talk lately surrounding Jon and Kate Gosselin regarding their split. There have also been rumors saying that Jon Gosselin is now claiming that he was emotionally abused by Kate and emotionally broken down by her. Are you a fan of the show? Is there an episode or a moment from the show that you remember where they treated one another in an unhealthy or abusive way? In your opinion, what would have been a better way to deal with these situations? Also, there is little talk about how the children may be affected by all of this. What effect do you think this has on their children?

Click Here to see what Jon has to say

Friday, September 11, 2009

Warning Signs of Dating Violence

A visitor to our site wrote us the following e-mail regarding the person that she was dating:

“My boyfriend hasn’t had an easy life. He hasn’t been able to control the things that happen. So I expected him to be a little controlling when we first got together. Except lately we have been fighting. He is jealous, possesive, controlling. When I pointed this out to him he calmed down and things were really good for awhile. Now the signs are starting to come back. What can I do to show him I love him but also explain to him he needs to change?”

If you or someone you know is experiencing the same or similar behaviors in a person they are dating keep the following things in mind:

- Being jealous, possessive and controlling are NOT ok.
- Although these actions are not abuse per se, they are warning signs of potential abuse.
- There is never an excuse to hurt someone in any way – even if you have had a hard life.
- Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship that consists of mutual trust, respect and support.

If you are experiencing warning signs in your relationship and decide to stay in the relationship its important to have a talk with your significant other:
- Let them know that you will leave if the abusive behaviors continue.
- Focus on your own needs and be clear about how you want them to change. Don’t accept excuses if they do not change their behavior.
- Encourage your partner to get help. Domestic violence programs can teach themm to have violence-free relationships.
- Your partner should have a positive attitude towards change. If they admit that what they are doing is not ok they are more likely to stop.

If you decide to leave the relationship it is important to know that abuse can get worse when you try to leave a relationship. That’s why it’s a very good idea to create safety plan. A safety plan can help you avoid dangerous and know the best way to react when you are in danger. Visit The Safe Space to download our safety planning guidebooks.

Being in an abusive relationship can make you feel isolated. Talk to a friend you trust about what is going on. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone. There is help.
Remember, if you need to talk to someone about your specific situation email us at: or visit us @

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chris Brown's interview: The Right Choice?

This evening, CNN will be airing an interview with Chris Brown that has already received significant press due to a comment made my Mr. Brown regarding his recollection of the events that led to the abuse of his former girlfriend, Rihanna. While that comment will most certainly cause great concern amongst advocates in the Domestic Violence community, we should focus on the bigger issues raised by this interview.

"I still love his music.” “She hit him first." - these are a few of the comments consistently seen on webpages discussing tonight's interview. Somehow, young people and adults have created a misconception that if one's music is popular, than that must mean this person is without fault. Liking or disliking Chris Brown's music is not relevant to the seriousness of his crime. They have also determined that Rihanna's actions somehow warranted the severe abuse she received at the hands of Chris Brown. As the law states, one cannot use physical force against another unless they are in fear for their lives. Chris Brown most certainly was not in a life threatening situation, so his assault was unjustified. Beyond that, there is simply is no excuse for the physical and emotional damage evident in the photos leaked of Rihanna. Perhaps those who continue to support Chris Brown should step back and imagine if they had been in Rihanna's shoes.

Chris Brown has yet to receive any counseling or rehabilitation for his issues with anger and abuse. Thus, he is asking for forgiveness before he has earned it. It is not surprising that Chris Brown turned to the media as a "safe haven" to share his side of the story. The question is - should he be allowed to share his side? At this point, after recently receiving conviction and sentencing, it seems the answer would be “no”. This looks like a career salvaging move, something a record label suggested -- "You still have fans! Go on television and make people feel sorry for you!"

As Chris Brown has done nothing to warrant such sympathy or forgiveness - at times, displaying a total lack of knowledge and insight from his comments about "not remembering the incident" to his mother still speaking with Rihanna - he does not deserve a forum to capitalize on the young people who still support his music. I am concerned that when the media offers him this platform it gives the appearance that they excuse his actions. Punishment is meant to be a deterrent towards violence and crime. If Chris Brown continues to be provided a forum to gain sympathy - what kind of deterrent has been made?

When the media is ready to cover this issue responsibly, Break the Cycle is happy to share our expertise.

Friday, July 10, 2009

If you see something, say something

All over the New York subways there’s an ad campaign that states “if you see something, say something”. When I first saw these ads I thought they were amusing, but painfully obvious. Of course if you see a crime you should say something. But the longer I lived in New York the more I began to realize that too often people let things happen and do nothing. Many people witness assaults or other crimes but do nothing because they feel it’s none of their business. While it may be none of your business, in many situations if a witness had spoken up or called the police the situation could have been averted. In the Chris Brown- Rihanna incident, it was a stranger in the neighborhood who called the police after hearing Rihanna call for help. If that stranger never called the police, would the world have ever known?

After a while I realized this subway ad campaign was really important, because people often are reluctant to speak up. I believe this is a common problem not only in New York, but across the United States. This issue is related to teen dating violence because silence and family privacy is a norm that enables violence. According to the Prevention Institute, this norm encourages silence around domestic and dating abuse and discourages those who witness it from intervening. This norm is reflected in the fact that even though teens turn to their friends for help first, “teens also express reluctance to intervene in dating violence situations and did not perceive that their help would be effective.” Thinking about the previous post But What Can I Do?, if you see a friend or a stranger in need, better to do too much than too little.

I would like to urge everyone to step outside of their individual life and think about themselves as a member of a larger community. Be that person who steps up if you witness abuse or another crime in public. You don’t have to be the hero, rush into a dangerous situation, or be overbearing when you don’t know the situation. But don’t simply sit quiet and try to ignore it if someone is being hurt. Call the police or try to safely help the person in need. You may not know if your help is needed, but if you see something it’s definitely worth it to say something.

-AR(BTC intern)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

5 years probation?

Chris Brown was sentenced last Monday for the incident involving Rihanna. He plead guilty and was charged with two felony counts, one for assault and one for making criminal threats. He was sentenced to six months of "community labor" and 5 years probation. There has been an ongoing debate on whether or not his punishment fit the crime. Law experts are saying that a sentencing like this is fairly standard for first time offenders. I'm saying, it just doesn't make sense. We wonder why this issue is sometimes taken lightly, why it's ignored, or why some people think teen dating violence is a relatively "new" issue. I won't say I'm an expert on the legal system, but I will say this, is a violent crime like this really worth only a slap on the wrist?

When I read the announcement regarding his sentencing, I shook my head and looked to the sky. It's all too familiar. An immediate thought entered my mind, "We have to change minds, to change laws." My stomach ached a bit. It seems an impossible thought, overwhelming at times, but it's possible...

Brown will receive Domestic Abuse Counseling. That could be enlightening, but without a reason to take it seriously, my hopes that he'll really learn something are not high. I'm not so sure I believe the community service he'll have to perform will be any more than an annoyance to him and his schedule. I do agree that sending someone to jail isn't always a necessary punishment, but sometimes, just sometimes, it is. Along with his mandated domestic abuse counseling, probation, and community service, spending some time locked in an unforgiving environment might just bring about a sense that domestic and dating violence will not be taken lightly. Now if only our legal system could get used to the idea, we might just find ourselves in a better place with this issue. There is a lot we can do to spread awareness, to change minds and laws, to educate each other on dating violence and healthy relationships, I am a part of that movement, and I hope the person reading this will join me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Do you deserve it?

Despite the fact that most people seem to agree that dating violence is wrong, it seems that many teens are justifying it. If you look at many of the blogs about dating violence, a lot of the comments say that the victim of abuse must have done something to provoke the abuser and therefore deserved the consequences. How does that sound to you? Is it okay to hit your boyfriend or girlfriend just because they make you really upset? Can someone say something to you that justifies you hitting them? Unfortunately many teens feel this way. A lot of them think that violence (physical or verbal) is a part of any normal relationship. A lot of the teens I talk to say that they believe that it is not okay to hit your partner, but many of them admit that they see it happen all the time at school, at home or in their communities.

According to the CDC, 10% of students in our country have been physically harmed by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year. And The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline said that this percentage doubles to 20% for those students who have been in a “serious” relationship. Hurting a boyfriend or girlfriend, be it physically or emotionally, is never a part of a healthy relationship. I encourage you to comment on the blogs and videos where you see people leaving comments that promote the idea that it’s the victim’s fault. Let your peers know that that isn’t the case and abusers should be held accountable for their actions. Each person is responsible for his or her actions and that includes our reactions to other people, no matter how angry we get at them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Teen Dating Violence Up in the recession?!

Today I came across this article on cnn. The article reports, among other things, that nearly half of all teens whose families experienced economic difficulties over the past year have witnessed their parents abusing each other, and that those teens who reported witnessing abusive relationships at home were more likely to be in abusive relationships themselves. The article also reports that parent-teen conversations about dating violence might be ineffective – citing that 78% of teens surveyed stay in abusive relationships despite their parents advising them to leave.

The survey, sponsored by family violence prevention fund and Liz Claiborne, reports a lot of interesting findings, here are the highlights:

Nearly 50% of teens report being victimized by controlling behaviors from a boyfriend or girlfriend.

24% have been victimized by a girlfriend or boyfriend through “technological means”

Conversations on dating abuse are difficult and unproductive because both teens and their parents are extremely uncomfortable talking to each other about the most serious aspects of dating abuse.

Only 25% of teens have taken a class about teen dating violence, but 75% of those who have taken such a class now know the signs of an abusive relationship and are confident they could spot abuse in their own relationships.

Relationship Abuse IS a problem and something needs to be done to change these numbers. So what can you do? Help get teen dating violence curricula in your school.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Who does dating abuse affect?

I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot of misconceptions lately about who experiences domestic and dating abuse. A lot of people think it’s an adult problem, or something that only happens to women, or an issue that only comes up in poor neighborhoods or communities of color. I want to take this opportunity to clear something up: dating abuse affects everyone.

First things first. Relationship abuse isn’t just something that only adults or married couples experience. In fact, young women between the ages of 16-24 are at the highest risk for abuse in their relationships. Also, you’ve heard it before but I’ll say it again: as many as one in three teens experience dating abuse. That’s over ten students per any average high school classroom.

Second. Women are not the only victims of abuse. Men and boys can, and do, experience relationship abuse as well. This is an easy thing to be confused about - we certainly do hear about men abusing women much more than we hear about women abusing men, or about abuse in same-sex relationships. I think, though, that this is partly because men and boys are much less likely to report abuse that they experience in their relationships. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed, or maybe they think no one would believe them, or that they’re doing something wrong, or maybe they don’t even recognize their partner’s behaviors as abusive. By avoiding the assumption that abuse only happens by a man against a woman, we can help everyone feel more comfortable seeking help for abuse – regardless of their gender or sexuality.

And finally. Abuse can happen in any community. It does not matter how much money you have, what you look like, how popular you are, how much education you or your parents have, what language you speak – abuse, unfortunately, does not discriminate. By denying that domestic and dating abuse exists, we also deny people the right to speak up when they experience it, the right to receive dating abuse prevention education, and the right to competent and compassionate services for help. The sooner we acknowledge that domestic and dating abuse can happen in our community (and that when it does, it is a community problem) – the sooner we can move forward in trying to end and prevent it.

What myths have you confronted about dating abuse and who it affects? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abuse in gay relationships? Apparently not.

Just when we thought we broke through one barrier, it seems someone was quick to put up another. Last week, House lawmakers in South Carolina approved a bill (H. 3543) that will require schools to have policies in place for reporting and responding to dating violence. This bill also requires that schools provide information about teen dating violence to students and their parents—great news, right?! Well no, not exactly. Unfortunately, someone felt it was important to explicitly state on the bill that this ONLY relates to heterosexual relationships. Gays need not apply.

As if making this change to the bill weren’t bad enough, the most disturbing thing about this change is that the bill itself did not make any reference to gay relationships, or any specific type of relationship, for that matter. On May 13, 2009, the bill stated the following:

“'Dating partner' means a person, regardless of gender, involved in an intimate relationship with another, primarily characterized by the expectation of affectionate involvement whether casual, serious, or long term.”

Apparently this wasn’t enough for Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester) who requested the amendment and so on May 14, 2009 the bill was changed to the following:

“'Dating partner' means a person involved in a heterosexual dating relationship with another.”

To go out of one’s way to make this point clear is such an overt act of discrimination. Rep. Delleney simply said he did not want children to be taught about gay relationships. It seems he didn’t get the memo which states that the bill is simply intended to teach (ALL youth) about healthy relationships and recognizing abuse. I wonder what he’d say to parents of abuse victims in same-sex relationships—“Sorry, your child just isn’t covered by our policy.”

It’s also mind boggling that one of the original bill sponsors had no issue with the suggested amendment. Rep. Joan Brady (R-Richland) said she wants every child to be protected but that dating violence occurs with more frequency in heterosexual relationships. We have news for you, Rep. Joan Brady…abuse does happen in gay relationships, more than you and I could ever imagine. Oh, and it also happens to the rich, poor, black, white and everyone in between, below, above and beyond.

It’s probably true that we don’t have alarming statistics to show the high rates in which dating violence occurs in gay relationships. But perhaps we’re not asking the right questions. Perhaps we’re not doing a good job of addressing the issue within the LGBTQ community which, by the way, faces greater challenges when seeking help than victims in heterosexual relationships.

And if this is how people in power are likely to respond when they have the opportunity to do something about it, then how could we ever expect victims in gay relationships to report the abuse? Thanks to an obviously callous lack of support, we may never really know how bad it really is. Abuse happens and it happens a lot. Abuse does not discriminate, but sadly people do.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dating Abuse on T.V??

Today I stumbled upon PADV’s Teen Scene blog (it’s great, you should check it out!) and was struck by an entry that they had written about the Death Cab for Cutie song “I will possess your heart .” If you haven’t heard the song, you can listen to it here and check out PADV’s blog for the lyrics. Among other things, the post talks about how at first listen, the song is catchy, beautiful and melodic. However, when you listen closely you notice that the lyrics paint a picture of someone who is possessive and who, at times, acts like a stalker.

I remember, distinctly, that a few weeks ago, I had heard “I will possess your heart” on KROQ and had thought “these lyrics are creepy/this guy sounds like a stalker/abuser.” I thought that. And then I almost immediately forgot it, until I read the PADV teen scene blog.

The blog also had a post about The Hills and abusive relationships, which made me think about all the instances of abusive behavior I had seen on t.v. lately. That made me think about how a lot of the time, signs of abusive relationships and abuse in general (especially the verbal and emotional kind) go unnoticed on tv, music and in all forms of entertainment. It’s important to recognize abuse as abuse when you see it, whether it be on t.v or in real life, because whether we want to admit it or not, the things that we see around us affect the way we act. Being aware of abuse on t.v. and in the media can help us to better recognize and protect ourselves from abuse in our lives and around us.

Can you think of a song, tv show or movie where abusive behaviors are featured? Do you think seeing abuse in the media has an effect on the viewer? Tell me what you think.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

But what can I do?

When I tell people about the work Break the Cycle does, they will often disclose a story about how domestic and dating violence has affected their lives. Sometimes they share a story about abusive relationships they’ve experienced themselves, but more often than not, they’ll talk about the experiences of someone they care about. The common theme in many of those stories is the feeling of helplessness.

When you care about someone, of course you want to do everything you can to protect them from hurt or harm. But when that harm is coming from an abusive relationship, it can feel especially overwhelming trying to figure out what you can do to help.

One really important thing to remember is that just by being there for your friend, you are already doing a lot. Experiencing abuse can be a very lonely time for someone, so simply by being present and supportive you can help lighten that sense of aloneness.

The hard part about being there for someone is that you can’t assume that you know what is best for their specific situation. You can and should be honest about your concerns for their well-being and safety. But at the end of the day, any decisions about the relationship have to be made by the person in that relationship – they are the expert on their own situation and it is important to respect that.

While you can’t take responsibility for your friends’ decisions, you can help support them as they move forward. That support might be providing them with information about abuse and healthy relationships – this can help them think about whether their relationship is as healthy as they deserve. You can also connect them to resources in their community (like Break the Cycle) who can help them think about their options, legal rights, and safety planning. Sometimes support can just be encouraging your friends to continue doing the things they love and seeing the people they love, outside of their relationship. And of course, if you ever believe that they are in immediate danger – don’t hesitate to call 911.

Remember, it is never easy to leave an abusive relationship. There can be a lot of factors that make it difficult for someone to seek help, or leave their abusive partner. Having a supportive, compassionate and thoughtful friend like you can make a world of difference for someone experiencing abuse.


To find out more about teen dating abuse click here

Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Don’t They Just Get Out?

At Break the Cycle we get lots of emails from teens who want to know if their relationship is unhealthy and what they can do if it is. But lately, we’ve also been getting emails asking why people in abusive relationships don’t just get out. If the situation is so bad, why do they stay with the person? Simple question, right? Well the answer isn’t so. The truth is that ending an abusive relationship is much harder than just saying it’s over and walking away. There are MANY reasons why a person in an abusive situation will remain in the relationship…

Fear – The victim may be afraid of what may happen if they decide to leave the relationship. In fact, ending an abusive relationship can be a very dangerous time for a victim. If they’ve been threatened in the past either by their partner, his/her family or friends, they won’t feel safe leaving. This can include a fear of being “outed” if they’re secretly in a same-sex relationship.

Embarrassment – Some people are not willing to admit that they’re relationship is abusive. Recognizing and telling someone that one’s own relationship is unhealthy and that a partner is being hurtful is not an easy thing to do. This can be especially true for male victims.

Low self-esteem – People go through many different things in life, good and bad. And if they find themselves in an abusive relationship where they are constantly put down and blamed for things, after a while they may begin to believe it’s true and that they deserve the abuse.

Believing abuse is normal – If a person grew up in an environment where there was always abuse, especially domestic abuse between their parents, they may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, which means they likely don’t realize there is something wrong with their own relationship. And unfortunately, no one really talks about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like. It’s hard to correct any misperceptions we may carry if all we have to model our behaviors after is whatever is happening at home.

Pregnancy or parenting – If there’s a baby in the picture the person may feel pressure to raise their baby with both parents together, even if that means enduring the abuse. They may also feel scared that their abusive partner will try to harm the child or take the child away if they leave.

Love – This can be one of the toughest. Think about it. Love is a strong emotion. If the person you love tells you they will change, of course you’ll want that to be true. So you stay, hoping that change will happen and that you will be happy. It’s hard to blame someone for loving, believing and hoping.

So as you can see, for these reasons (and many others!) walking away from an abusive relationship is not easy. So if you know someone or hear of someone who may be involved in an unhealthy relationship, don’t make them feel worse than they probably already do. Understand that their situation is unique and likely complicated. Offer to find them help. And above all give them your support. Visit to find out what you can do.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Get Involved in Teen Dating Violence Prevention!

Lately, I’ve been talking to a lot of adults about how to get teens involved in the movement to end teen dating violence. Many adults believe that teenagers really don’t care or they just aren’t motivated enough to stand up and be heard on this issue. Well, I don’t think that’s true at all.

I have met many students who thought that dating violence was wrong and really wanted to help make a difference in their schools and communities. What was the number one thing stopping them? . . . the fact that they didn’t know very much about dating violence until I came to talk to them about it. I think that if more teenagers knew about dating violence and just how prevalent it is among their peers, more of them would want to do something about it. Just think . . . if one in three teens will experience some form of dating violence in their lives, how many people would that be at your school? I bet it’s a big number. Now think about your town or city. Wow, right? So what can you do?

One of the things that I tell adults who want to work with teens is that they have to meet young people on their turf. And who do you think is going to tell adults how to talk to teenagers? That’s right . . . YOU! Don’t wait for an adult to make the first move. Go to them with your ideas. Besides, sometimes teens need adults to get them access to things that can be difficult to get on their own, like video equipment or the use of a building or public space and the list goes on. In fact, I have worked with quite a few groups of students who did awesome class projects about dating violence. Some of them made short documentaries, performed skits and others conducted interviews with their classmates and showed the results to the student body at an assembly. These teens did something. So can you!

If you really want to make your voice heard, you CAN do something to raise awareness about teen dating violence and its devastating effects. For more ideas on how to get started, visit


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Teen Dating Violence State Report Cards | New Jersey

So, as many of you may know, Break the Cycle has released its 2009 teen dating violence state report cards. If you don’t know, this report gives every state a grade based on the protection that its state laws give to teen victims of dating violence. If you want to see exactly what factors were considered when grading states – click on this link and go to page 6.

I am from New Jersey, so today I am going to look at how it scored – and why. You can follow this link to see the full report for New Jersey. If you open the link – you will see that New Jersey got a “C” – that might be average in school but it means that the law definitely needs improvement when teens’ safety is at risk.

Why did New Jersey get a C? Let’s look at one of the reasons: You can get a restraining order without parental involvement if you are under 18 (a good thing). However, it seems that in New Jersey you can only get a restraining order against someone who is 18 years old or over – this makes it almost impossible for someone to protect themselves against an abuser if he/she is under 18, and if the victim is under 18 it’s pretty likely that the person they were dating was too. It’s unsettling to think that a minor can only protect themselves against adults and not against other minors, when a minor can be just as dangerous as an adult. New Jersey, let’s change this!

I encourage you to look at your state’s grade and reflect on what it means, and what it would mean if you or someone you knew needed to get a restraining order and couldn’t. Share your state’s report card with everyone you know. Let’s make sure everyone gets the protection that they deserve!


Monday, March 30, 2009

Is Arguing a Sign of an Unhealthy Relationship?

Hi everyone! My name is Susannah and I’m lucky enough to get to hang out with young people every week and talk about relationships – as my job! I go into schools and organizations around Los Angeles to talk about what it means to be in a relationship that might be unhealthy or abusive, and also what it means to be in a relationship that is healthy.

Sometimes when I’m working with groups of students I’ll have them make lists of what they think belongs in a healthy relationship, and what behaviors they think might occur in an unhealthy or abusive relationship. On the healthy side, groups are usually in agreement that healthy relationships are respectful and supportive, fun and safe. On the unhealthy side, most groups include hitting, screaming, put-downs, and so on.

One thing I’ve noticed is that more often than not, arguing and disagreements wind up on the unhealthy and abusive side of the list.

Here’s the thing - no matter how healthy your relationship is, there will likely be things that you and your partner disagree about. Even when you’re in a serious, committed relationship you’re still your own person, so naturally you won’t always see eye-to-eye with your boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s okay to disagree. Feeling comfortable enough with your partner to be able to voice your opinion, even if it’s not a shared opinion, is a healthy part of any relationship.

However, putting arguing on the unhealthy list makes a very important point: No argument should ever make you feel controlled or intimidated by your partner. No disagreement should ever make you feel unsafe.

Relationships should make you feel good about yourself. If the disagreements you’re having with your boyfriend or girlfriend are getting in the way of that, it may be worth taking a second look at whether or not this is the healthy relationship you deserve. And if the arguments in your relationship ever make you feel scared, it’s definitely worth reaching out to get some help.

What do you think about arguments in relationships? Have any good stories about healthy arguments you’ve had with your boyfriend or girlfriend? We want to hear them!