Stopping Violence is Everyone's Responsibility
  Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

 Shocking and gory pictures of violence on school campuses keep coming.  What can we do to stop this senseless violence?  For one thing, we must more openly discuss the problem of violence in teen relationships.  

 To work out their relationship problems, teens need pointers from adults.  They are exposed to a lot of violence through television, video games, movies,  and in some cases, violence in their own home.  Children need guidance from adults about peace and non-violence to balance things out.    

 Stopping violence in teen relationships is everyone's responsibility.  Peers, friends, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, ministers—all have a responsibility to speak out against violence in relationship and prevent it from occurring.  Discuss the common sense rules of love and relationships.  Make sure your child knows how to deal it when love begins to hurt.  

 The American Psychological Association, in conjunction with several other national professional associations has issued an excellent guide, "Love Doesn't Have To Hurt Teens," to address the problem of violence in teen relationships.  The poster lists five situations involving relationship conflicts which characterize the most troubling aspects of teen relationships today.  These situations provide excellent talking points with teens at home, school, and elsewhere in the society.  They can be used to discuss constructive solutions to a conflict and develop better alternatives when love hurts.  

Here are the five situations: 
Kevin is walking in the school hallway with his friends and sees his girl friend at her locker with her friend.  When he goes up to her, she gives him a cold look and says loudly, "I don't know why I even bother with you, loser!  I guess I keep you around because I feel sorry for you."  Kevin doesn't know what he did to upset her.  This is the first time he learns that there is a problem.  Kevin is embarrassed because his friend saw his girl friend putting him down.  
Message: Humiliation hurts.  Don't do it    
Jennie and Tyrone lunch in the cafeteria with their friends.  They start teasing each other, but then the playing turns to insults.  Tyrone sees that Jennie is upset but doesn't stop .  Jennie gets up and says, "Get away from me, I hate you."  Tyrone says, "Shut up" and slaps her across the face. 
Message:  That slap is nothing but violence, pure and simple.

Tony and Emily have been going out for a few week, and he is beginning to act like he owns her.  He complains when she spends time with her best friend—or anyone except him.  He expects her to meet him between classes, eat lunch with him, let him go home with her after school, and be with him every weekend.  Afraid she'll lose him, Emily begins to cut herself off from everybody. 
Message:  Such possessiveness isn't love—it is abuse.  

Christine and Allison are in an intense argument.  Christine gets madder and madder, until she finally grabs Allison, shakes her, and shoves her against the wall. Later Christine apologizes, saying, ""I'm not proud I lost my temper, but you really pushed my buttons.   You  should know better than to get up in my face like that, because you know I get too angry to control myself."  
Message:  The shoving and blaming someone else for the behavior is violence.  That apology is meaningless.  We must take responsibility for our behavior.     
Fred and Mary, who have going our for a few weeks, are making out.  Mary has been clear that she doesn't want anything beyond kissing, but Fred becomes aggressive, disregarding her request to slow down and back off.  One time he went too far in forcing himself upon her and later told her that she was a tease and was "asking for it."   
Message: Don't be a mind reader.  Go by what your friend says and not by what you think he or she is really saying.  Disregarding the wish of the friend you are dating and forcing your will on him or her is violence.          

Sometimes we dismiss an act of violence by regarding it as "no big deal."  Humiliating another fellow being is a big deal.  Possessiveness is a big deal.  Date rape is a big deal.  Violence in any form is a big deal, if not now, later.  
Discuss each situation with your teen/s like a test on the subject of f relationship.  Make sure that a child understands the feelings of each character involved in a given situation and comes up with positive solutions and alternative behaviors.  

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