If you ask any kid what the biggest problem in school is, they’re likely to say bullying.
It’s one of those insidious things that sneaks in and shows up in the hallways every single day. Campaigns, like Pink Shirt Day, bring much-needed attention and awareness to the problem as students, teachers and communities work together to make the situation better.
One facet of bullying that’s rarely mentioned, though, is the reality of dating/domestic abuse/manipulation among young people. Like schoolyard bullying, it can no longer be swept under the carpet and ignored. Otherwise it’ll grow and fester in secrecy and those entrenched in the ugliness will feel alone and forgotten. A strong message needs to be embraced — namely, love should never hurt, be about jealousy or control. Domestic violence can (and does) occur among young dating couples. Believe me, you don’t need to be old and married to be caught in an abusive relationship.
Usually the relationship begins like any other, but can end up feeling suffocating, controlling, or even dangerous. It doesn’t necessarily happen quickly, and the subtle nature of it can leave you in doubt. Just keep in mind that a loving relationship is a partnership of two, not a dictatorship of one. You always have a right to discuss your concerns and have them heard. Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding or miscommunication. Life happens, but when the negative behaviour is escalating into nonstop bullying, you may need to put your pink shirt on and find some help.
Here are some things I want you to be aware of for yourself and your friends — and guys listen up. We so often think of domestic/dating abuse as being against women but it happens to guys too. It’s not OK to have a girl dig her nails into you, pull your hair, kick you or blame you for being late, etc. Nope, not OK. You should be able to say ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘please don’t do that’ and be heard and respected. If you’re not you need to reevaluate the relationship.
Signs of an abusive relationship:
• Excessive isolation and manipulation. If your partner takes up all your time and attention, always wants to be with you (not your friends and family — just you), is very possessive, doesn’t want you to hang with other people and makes you feel bad for having any type of life independent of them, that’s not normal. If your partner threatens self-harm if you don’t comply with what they want, this is a huge red flag (and a scary one) and an indication that you need to seek advice or help.
Does your partner always have to have their way? Are they really bossy and demanding? Moody? Is it to a point where you feel threatened if you defy them? If your partner forces or pressures you to do things and you comply just to keep the peace, that’s not love.
Is you partner hyper critical and always putting you down? If they tell you you’re fat or stupid, dump them — now. If a partner tells you how to think or tells you that your opinions/beliefs are wrong, that’s not love.
Is your partner controlling? This could be anything from being told what to wear, who you can talk to, or what you can eat. Is your partner deceptive and sneaky? Do they cause you to be late for work? Miss an exam? Show up just as you’re about to leave with your friends because he/she needs you? This in not OK.
Is your partner jealous or insecure? Do they get angry when you talk to other people? Do they want to know who you’re with, or who you’re talking to all the time. Do they check your phone without permission and accuse you of things you didn’t do? This is not love. It’s controlling and will escalate over time.
Does your partner have an explosive temper? Is everything always your fault? Do they give you the silent treatment or punch walls? Are you afraid of them?
Is your partner physically hurting you? Call 911 or if necessary attend your local hospital emergency.
For confidential victim service information for yourself or a friend, call VictimLinkBC, 24/7 in B.C. and Yukon 1-800-563-0808.
If you think you or a friend may need this number in the future, put it in your phone under Auntie. No one but you needs to know what the number is for. There are also many local resources available. Your school or college counsellor and local police being two very public and accessible ones.
The message of Pink Shirt Day is that we all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. No one should ever live in fear. Embrace the message. Be safe.