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!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How well does your state protect its victims of teen dating violence?

Every year, as part of their fight to end domestic and dating violence, Break the Cycle analyzes the state laws affecting teen victims of dating and domestic violence and releases its state report cards. Each state is graded on the requirements needed for a teen to get a restraining order. Unfortunately, many teens face significant obstacles when trying to get restraining orders when they need them.

Help Break the Cycle spread its state report cards by re-posting these links on your Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and wherever else you can. By spreading these reports as much as possible YOU help to ensure that teens get the protection they NEED regardless of what state they live in.

Check out your states report card!

Read the article about Break the Cycle's report cards!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Don’t Sit Quietly. Speak Up.

Hello there. This is “G” and yes, you can call me G. I also work at Break the Cycle. Every now and then you’ll find me blogging here, for the most part offering tidbits about how domestic and dating violence has affected some people—anonymous names, of course. I think it’s important to share these types of experiences so that youth can get a better understanding of what it is to be a victim and why it’s important to give and get help. So to begin, I’ll share an experience of mine…

Not long ago, a couple moved in next door. Even though they seemed to quietly keep to themselves, I quickly learned that their relationship was not as breezy as it appeared. Soon there were arguments, slamming doors, and frequent storming down the stairs. It was a terrible situation from where I stood.

One recent night, around 1:30 in the morning, I was suddenly awakened by the screams of the woman next door. At first I couldn’t tell what she was saying, only that there was sincere panic in her voice. I sat up in bed right away, quickly trying to make sense of what was happening. Was it a burglar? Was she having a bad dream? As I tried to wrap my head around the situation I immediately heard the voice of the man, hard, cursing, yelling…angry. It scared me; they were just one wall away. And then I heard her clearly, “Somebody call the police!” Again and again she screamed.

I jumped out of bed and ran for my phone. I called the police and told them what I knew: my neighbor was screaming for help; a domestic violence situation. She asked if I was safe, if I was inside and away from the situation. I said yes. She then thanked me for calling and said the police would be over soon.

The police did come in a matter of minutes. I peered out my window quietly, trying to catch a glimpse. They never came to my door but they did speak to both the man and the woman separately. I was still concerned for the woman but I was confident that the police would deal with the situation appropriately. So I went back to bed, 30 minutes after the whole thing had started. She moved out the next day.

So what’s the moral of the story? That I practice what I preach? No, not exactly. The lesson is, do something to offer help. Never put yourself in harm’s way, obviously. But if you’re witness to a situation where someone is being hurt by their partner, don’t sit quietly hoping someone else will do the talking for you. Speak up. Don’t put yourself in the middle of the situation, especially if there is physical violence. But do find a safe way to get help. Call the police. Tell a security guard. Find someone who can help. Abuse is never okay. Don’t stand for it. In that moment, you just might save a life.

Do you have a similar story that you’d like to share? Or how about commenting on whether you would’ve done something different? I welcome your contributions.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rihanna: When media influence goes too far.

Rihanna decided not to leave him. That is her choice. It is a difficult situation for many reasons and Rihanna should not be punished for deciding to stay with him. Many people, however, are judging Rihanna for staying with Chris Brown. Critics have said she is not a good role model, have created a petition to remove Rihanna (as well as Chris Brown) from the kid’s choice awards, some have even said that if she doesn’t leave him, she deserves what will happen to her.

Rihanna is in a very difficult situation, as is anyone experiencing domestic or teen dating violence. She obviously cares for Chris and is attached to him. It is hard enough to leave a relationship if you love someone and even harder if they are abusive. Many women go back to their abusers, it’s not just Rihanna, and it is not our place to judge them if that is the decision they make. The person who will suffer the most in this entire situation is Rhianna—we don’t need to do anything to punish her any further.

Rihanna needs support now. Revoking Rihanna’s role-model status, trying to remove her nomination from the kid’s choice awards, and all together not being her fan anymore all seem to be more like punishment then support. By doing these things, these critics, are in effect taking away Rihanna’s support. Rihanna is a musician, she supports herself by being in the public eye and being viewed publically in a positive light. Taking support away from her by putting her in such a negative light is saying that it is ok to punish someone for being abused if they choose to go back to their abuser. But really, it is not ok. Rihanna needs support to heal, and to stay strong -especially if she needs to leave him in the future.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Just Playing??

- I work with teens and young adults to teach them about dating violence. We talk a lot about family, friends and the constant pressures and stresses in society. I’ve decided to blog about my experiences and share some of what I learn with you. Be sure to offer your opinions and comment on my blogs! You can also email me with questions or requests to read about a particular topic. You can reach me at Talk to you soon! -Tabitha

We were just playing!!

I usually hear very interesting things when I teach middle and high school students about dating violence. Sometimes I just talk to students to find out what they think about certain issues. One day I asked some students if they ever see their peers physically abusing their boyfriends or girlfriends at school and everyone said no. I repeated the question later and said hitting instead of physical abuse. This time someone mentioned the notion of “play fighting”. Basically partners hit, kick, slap and wrestle with one another, but they’re just playing. Everything’s cool and no one comes away hurt or upset. I asked the students if they ever did this with their partners. Most of the students said that they did play fight and they felt that it was okay. I was shocked to hear that a lot of teens see nothing wrong with putting their hands on someone in this way as long as they’re just playing. Some teens believe that this is how boys and girls show how much they care about one another. Apparently a lot of middle and high school couples engage in this kind of “affection”.

A lot of teachers say that they see couples hit one another in the hallways and classrooms, but when they intervene the students act as though there is nothing wrong. Many adults see this behavior and say that the students lack respect for themselves and for their partners. Many teens disagree and feel that play fighting has nothing to do with how much or how little they respect someone.

But is this really just playful flirting? Who says that no one is hurt by it? Some of the students in the group said that play fighting CAN get out of hand. According to one student, “. . . at first you’re playing, but then someone gets hurt on accident. Then they get angry and decide to hit you back harder . . .” This is usually how these situations escalate into real fights. At this point the angry partner uses the excuse that the other person took it too far and they were just reacting or trying to defend themselves. Often times neither partner is willing to speak up and say that they have been injured, physically or emotionally. They would rather move on and not address what happened.

This is really sad because this is a prime example of physical abuse and it’s happening to so many teens and they don’t even realize it. Hitting your partner is unhealthy, period. Don’t get me wrong, people enjoy pillow fights and the occasional tickle match, but when you can actually hurt someone by YOUR actions (hitting, pushing, slapping, etc), you’ve gone too far, regardless of your intentions.

Tell me what you think about play fighting. Is it something you see at your school? Is it okay to hit your partner? Is it okay for them to hit you?

To learn more about teen dating violence visit and

Monday, March 2, 2009

International Women's Day online celebration!

Ending domestic and dating violence cannot be accomplished by one organization alone; it takes the work of many individuals across different organizations, across many nations. That is why we open our blog to others who also spread awareness about this important issue, no matter where they are. On behalf of Breakthrough an international human rights organization that uses media, education and pop culture to promote values of dignity, equality and justice we post the following information in support of their International Women s Day online celebrations.

Message from Breakthrough:

We're writing to call on you to get involved in our campaign, Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell), calling on men and boys to join women in bringing domestic violence to a halt.

Bell Bajao has been reaching millions across India and is encouraging unprecedented engagement on the ground. We want YOU to be part of the action to promote women's rights. Breakthrough is celebrating International Women s Day on March 8, by celebrating all those who are speaking out, through their actions, their beliefs, their music or art.

Join the blog action week from March 2 - 8 on and tell us your stories. Write about those people who support women s rights either through their passion, their work or in their personal lives. Stories can include photographs, videos and other visual elements to be posted online. Do include a short description of yourself as well (name, age, location, any additional details).

You'll be joining some amazing male leaders like Bollywood actor and Bell Bajao ambassador Boman Irani .

Notable author and former UN Undersecretary General Shashi Tharoor is writing...Fashion designer Sandeep Khosla is talking Bell Bajao campaign creator Zenobia Pithawalla speaks out Ad film director Bauddhayan Mukerji frames his views...Copywriter Ryan Mendonca crafts lines...activist Harish Sadani is taking a stand on The Bell Bajao Blog

So join Breakthrough in bringing domestic violence to a halt! Bell Bajao !