FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | Durelle Price | intimate partner violence
February is Dating Violence Awareness Month.
According to a special report by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics females ages 16-24 experience intimate partner violence at a rate almost triple to any other age group or the national average. Parents, your daughters have a 1 in 3 chance of being victims of dating violence. While some teens are fretting over what to wear to prom, others are wondering what they can wear tomorrow to hide the bruises. Many are being “textually abused.” For some the wounds from the verbal abuse fester into an angry emotional abscess that prompts bad choices with often irreparable consequences. If this doesn’t seem serious enough for you to read on, conduct an internet search with the keywords, “killed by her boyfriend.” A recent search revealed not just a few links to news stories, but 25+ pages of links to heart-wrenching stories of families dealing with the loss of their loved ones to dating violence.
So, how do you know who to date? How do you avoid dangerous relationships? It’s often said that in business, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” When it comes to dating, give that old adage a new twist. Think “it’s what you know about who you know.” As you might have suspected, everything boils down to habits. What do you know about a person’s habits? Whether a potential business partner or a prospective life partner, you need to know as much as possible about who you know.
There are red flag habits and green flag habits to consider. Green flag habits are healthy behaviors that signal “Go—it’s safe to move forward with this relationship”. Red flag habits are unhealthy often dangerous behaviors that signal “STOP!—put the brakes on this relationship now.” Look for the red flag habit in this story about 17 year old Michelle found in Sean Covey’s book The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make.
Michelle…was zapped—love-struck by Justin, a hot, star athlete at their high school. Justin could be very sweet. He told her how beautiful she was and how much he loved her. Early in their relationship they went to a party and the guy at the front door told her she had pretty eyes. Before she could say thank you, Justin punched the guy flat to the floor. She had a terrible feeling in her stomach, but her friends all said, ‘Wow, you are so lucky. He loves you so much!’
As is common amongst teens, Justin’s violent red flag behavior was misinterpreted by Michelle’s friends and then justified by Michelle. However, her gut instinct that left the terrible feeling in her stomach was trying to help Michelle see the punch—an unreasonable response to a compliment—for what it was—a red flag habit—violence. Preceding the punch, Michelle viewed Justin’s absorption of all her free time as signs of love and commitment. She felt happy he wanted to spend so much time with her. She didn’t see it was another red flag habit that allowed him to gain control over her and distance her from her friends and family. As you read the continued excerpt below you’ll see the dire consequences Michelle experienced when denial kept her from recognizing the red flag habits.
A few years later they’d decided to get married. A week before the wedding, they had a minor disagreement. Suddenly, Justin dove across the room and grabbed Michelle by the throat. It was the longest 20 seconds Michelle had ever experienced. Just as quickly as it began, it ended. He dropped to his knees, threw his arms around her waist and pleaded with her to forgive him. As the tears streamed down his face, he blamed it on being nervous about the wedding and swore he’d never do anything like that again. Michelle didn’t know what to do. She’d been taught to forgive, right? She was humiliated and confused. She didn’t tell her sister. She sure didn’t tell her mother, and she didn’t even tell her best friend. She prayed it would never happen again. A week later they were married.
When red flag habits exist before the wedding, the behaviors often only increase and intensify in the marriage as is apparent in the continuation of the story.
Now she was trapped. Over the next several years, the physical and emotional abuse went from bad to worse before Michelle finally gathered the courage to leave Justin. He continued to stalk her for years.
Sadly, as the story confirms, even divorce often doesn’t put an end to violence. According to a study by Stark and Flitcraft (1988), 75 percent of violent incidents that lead to emergency room visits occur after separation. Another important fact is that relationship violence is not a gender-exclusive crime. Although statistics show the vast majority of reported abuse is perpetrated by males, many male victims fear the humiliation of reporting.
Michelle’s story is not unique but it is preventable. So what can a community leader, parent, teacher, concerned family member, or friend do to encourage better choices and drive more favorable consequences? Everyone benefits from supporting local violence prevention and intervention programs. Gather resources from those agencies such as the Power and Control Wheel displayed here. Parents of teens: give your kids copies of The 7 Habits for Teens and The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make (audio or books) and send an email to your local school board president containing the link for FranklinCovey youth workshops. If you are an elementary school teacher, introduce your peers and administrators to the FranklinCovey Leader in Me initiative that discourages bullying behaviors (often leading to dating violence) and encourages students as young as five years of age to become leaders in their own lives. Family members and can model green flag habits as well as sponsor and attend a 7 Habits Signature, 7 Habits Families workshop, or an 8 Habits of a Successful Marriage workshop at your business or in your neighborhood.
If you are a victim and feel trapped like Michelle in an abusive relationship. You have done nothing to deserve the abuse. There is a better life for you waiting on the other side. I know because Michelle’s real name is Durelle. Call the national dating violence hotline 800-799-SAFE for resources in your area. Get help and get out−Now!