By Carra Hughes Greer
I am a regular viewer of several reality shows including “Sixteen and Pregnant,” “Teen Mom” and now “Teen Mom 2.” I have been asked by many youth parents whether they should allow their teenagers to watch these shows based on teens getting pregnant and becoming moms,. My answer is always the same: “Yes!”
Some might assume these shows glamorize pregnancy or motherhood, but nothing about these shows is glamorous. Week after week, we see mostly dead-beat teenage dads walking out on their “Baby Mama” and teenage mothers left abandoned and alone.
Watching these shows week after week, a trend began to emerge. I began to notice serious verbal, mental and physical abuse between girlfriends and boyfriends.
One night, while watching a teenage girl on “Teen Mom 2” reduced to a shell of herself from the verbal abuse of her boyfriend I began to cry. And as the emotions in me stirred and began to boil over, I realized I had a story to tell.
As a young woman in college, I was constantly verbally abused by my boyfriend.
“Why didn’t you just break up?” you might ask. These types of relationships are not easily exited. The mental abuse and manipulation happened so gradually. At the same time, my boyfriend was encouraging me to alienate myself from family and close friends. Slowly, a transformation was taking place in me. I was changing from an independent young woman into a needy, co-dependent, numb, empty person.
One night, in the heat of an argument, my boyfriend grabbed my arm so fiercely and tightly I began to scream and cry. This only fueled his anger and tightened his grip. I remember his eyes and the rage behind them. I was so scared. He finally released me and I ran to the safety of my room. I sat, tearfully watching a bright red image of his hand appear around my arm. I made myself a promise in the dark of my room that night, “No one will do this to you again.”
Part of my calling into ministry and why I work with teenagers, is to share my story. Often times, youth ministers and parents focus their teachings on sex, either not having sex before marriage or safe sex practices. We fail to teach teenagers about what constitutes abuse and how to respond if you find yourself in an abusive dating relationship.
Physical and psychological abuse can happen to anyone, even in a dating relationship. Often, mental abuse is overlooked because it does not leave physical scars, but the mental and emotional scars are very real to the victim. It is a myth that men cannot be abused by women. Abuse can happen to any person, of any race, any gender, any size.
It is my hope that by sharing my story, others will be compelled to share their stories as well. Victims of abuse often feel a sense of responsibility for what is happening to them, but open channels of communication and dialogue give women and men a place to share about the abuse they have experienced.
It is so important that we as Baptist ministers and leaders equip our teens with the resources they need to recognize abusive words or actions. These issues should be included in our “sex talks” and “dating talks” at youth group and at home. Please talk to your teenagers today.