As I was riding home with my teenager yesterday, I began talking to her about relationships, and I asked her, “What would you do if you had been dating someone for a year or more, and you were madly in love with him, and during an argument, he slapped you?”
Her immediate response, “I would slap him back.”
A couple of months ago, I would have given her a high five and said, “that’s my girl.” But, hearing those words come from her mouth now deeply saddened me.
I thought of a conversation I had with another couple about a year ago when I was still with my husband. I shared with them that I taught my girls to fight back if a man ever hit them. The absolute look of horror on their faces as the couple, simultaneously, let me know that this was probably some of the worst advice I could give my girls is ingrained in my brain. This couple, who is also raising a daughter, could never imagine their little girl engaging in a fight with a man. I, on the other hand, was involved in a physically abusive relationship, that I was not ready to give up on, so self-preservation, by fighting back was my way of life. I never once considered the serious danger my daughter’s potentially faced trying to meet the strength of a man.
Coming back to reality, rather than high five my daughter, I took a moment to explain that she should never have to deal with a situation like this because men are not supposed to hit women they love. I told her that love makes things complicated, and I wish I could be sure that she would leave, never to look back, at the first sign of abuse. But, speaking from experience, it is not always that simple. It is my hope that she learns to love and respect herself enough so that maybe she could avoid engaging with an abuser altogether. But, if by chance she found herself in an abusive relationship, she should not be silent! And, her dad and I, as long as we were around, would always provide a safe-haven for her.