Scrolling down my Facebook feed, I stumbled past a very powerful picture with attached text. The picture displayed a little girl whose face was swollen and bruised – a boy at school had hit her. At the hospital, knowing what happened, the man behind the registration desk exclaimed, “I bet he likes you.”
Since when does hurting a person mean you like them? If society is telling the younger generation of this world that hitting is okay, at what age will violence begin? This recent incident seems to clearly identify the dangerous message we tell young girls.
The idea that “if he teases you, it means he has a crush on you” has been around for a long time. When little girls are chased on the playground by boys, we tell the girl it’s just the boy’s way of showing he likes her. This idea sets girls up for a warped and dangerous idea of what love and healthy relationships look like.
Picture this: the adults tell the little girl in her life that the boy hit her because he likes her. She grows up believing that love is shown through aggression and even violence. When her high school boyfriend grabs her arm at a party a little too hard, she believes it’s because he loves her and is trying to protect her. So when he hits her a couple months later, she forgives him and believes him when he tells her it won’t happen again. He starts to isolate her from her friends and family, forces her to have sex when she doesn’t want to, and tells her it’s because he knows what’s best for her. The abuse continues, and every time he apologizes and says it will never happen again. She believes this is what she deserves and that this violence is love.
When I think of domestic violence, I see violence within an intimate relationship, whether it is husband and wife, or guardian and child. In reality, domestic violence includes child abuse, sibling abuse, dating violence, elder abuse, and even violence against a roommate. Domestic violence is never about love – it is always about power and control. The abuser needs to exert their power and manipulate others in order to feel in control. Sexual assault is often present in domestic violence relationships – it is a myth that sexual assault cannot exist within an otherwise consenting relationship, and control in a sexual context is just one more way an abuser exerts their power. No matter what has happened in the relationship leading up to the abuse, it is never the fault of the victim. Violence (in any form) is always the choice of the abuser.
We must talk to children about healthy relationships at an early age. We tell kids not to hit their friends, why can’t we talk to them about good and bad ways to show someone you like them? Just as it is not ok to tell the little girl this boy was showing he likes her by hitting her, it’s not ok to forgive this little boy’s actions and allow him to believe he can treat anyone he likes by hurting them. It’s scary to think of the cycle of abuse that can spiral out of these situations.
It`s time we put an end to the hitting, the aggressive attitude, the explicit language. We need to educate children on domestic violence, letting it be known that hitting is NOT flirting!
YWCA McLean County Stepping Stones serves as the only rape crisis center in McLean County. Stepping Stones provides 24-hour assistance for sexual assault and sexual abuse victims and their families. This free, confidential service also serves as the central sexual assault resource for McLean County. Services include 24-hour hotline, medical and legal advocacy, counseling, prevention education, and volunteer advocacy training.
Hi! I`m Dana Van Duerm, a Junior Public Relations major at Illinois State University. I am currently a PR/Marketing Intern at YWCA McLean County. With graduation in the near future, I dream of working in the beautiful city of Chicago. I love all things fashion, and I am currently obsessing over How to Get Away With Murder.