When people think about violence in a relationship, there is a common question that comes to mind, “Why does
she stay?” This question is usually followed by the statement, “I wouldn’t stay if someone did that to me!”
The truth of the matter is that abusive relationships do not begin with a slap or busted lip, it starts with the breaking
of one’s will, the erosion of one’s self-esteem, and isolation from loved ones. When a person is stripped of all
of these elements it becomes relatively easy to gain control over them.
From the perspective of a young woman in high school or college, the reasons for staying in an unhealthy relationship
increase greatly for three reasons:
- Their friends are in unhealthy relationships, so abusive relationships
seem normal. We learn what is acceptable and unacceptable by experience. In other words, we live and learn. Teens have
little to no dating experience when they enter into a relationship filled with the “L-Word,” so what they lack
in experience, they make up for in emulation. Teens will emulate the relationships they see around them, whether this be on
television, at home between parents, or from each other. There is no way to get around the issue that teens look to each other
for advice. Our teens spend between eight and ten hours away from home and with friends. If their friends are in unhealthy
relationships, they will view their own destructive relationship as normal.
- Female competition causes young women to put up with unhealthy behavior.
Competition between females has been such a hot topic in the past year that books and movies have been made to
deal with this “Mean Girl” phenomenon. You would be surprised at the number of teens that tell me they stay with
an abusive partner because “all of the other girls want him, and I’ve got him!” Truthfully…when I
look back on my relationship, this is one of the reasons why I stayed.
- Lack of Self-Confidence.
Another word for self-confidence is self-value. The message behind self-value is this: what you value, you take
care of. You don’t allow people to destroy the things you value. If a young woman has a lack of self-confidence or self-value,
then it is easy to see why someone who makes them feel pretty would have so much power and influence in their life. It is
easy to see why a young woman with little to no self-esteem would be easy prey for an abusive boyfriend as I was.
Luckily, there is something that we as titleholders can do to help bring
awareness to this issue. It's no secret that the crown gives us access to a number of opportunities that would otherwise be
barriers. You can use your crown and title to speak with youth, educators, parents, and politicians:
Speak to the young women in our lives
about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Being proactive and educating our young women
about dating violence, healthy relationships, and their worth, are the best methods of prevention; however, education is a
great intervening tool as well. As stated before, young women look to each other for validation that their actions are right.
How will the young woman in your life know that she is on a destructive path unless you tell her? Young women can be found
everywhere! Schools, community centers, churches, next door, right in your own home.
Encourage our young women to work together
and not against each other. We can do this by creating mentoring programs in our local
communities as well as developing activities that require young women to work together.
Establish a book club and create a
reading list that empowers young women. Start with,“He Loves Me Not, But I Love Myself! A young woman’s guide to understanding a conquering dating violence,”
it is a great prevention and intervention tool. It will be released later this month. Go to www.tamikajohnson.com to read an excerpt!
Show our young women that they are
leading ladies, people of value. That they were born for greatness! As a titleholder
you are already a symbol of beauty, a person of value. Carry yourself well in public. This is especially important once you
begin speaking to young women, they will be looking at you!
Stop asking victims “why do you
stay?” and start asking, “Do you deserve this treatment?” and “What
is your value?” the last thing you want to be is judgmental and asking these questions will cause your loved one to
think about her situation rather than feel like you are attacking her.
Impart words of life such as “You are destined for great things! If you were such a bad person, do you think he would
Speak to educators and parents about
dating violence. Educators and parents
are on the frontlines and behind the scenes of our prized teenagers. Speak to them about the warning signs of dating violence,
and how to speak to their teen.
Speak to your local, state, and national
representatives. Put together a packet of facts and statistics about dating violence
and ask your representatives to support legislation that supports programming and provides financial aid to domestic violence
programs around the Country. Your voice really does make a difference!