As I was riding home with my teenager yesterday, I began talking to her about relationships. 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 was, “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 profoundly 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 horror on their faces as the couple 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. On the other hand, I 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 daughters 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. I explained that men are not supposed to hit women they love and vice versa. I told her that feelings and emotions make 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 can avoid engaging with an abuser altogether. But, if by chance she finds herself in an abusive relationship, she should not be silent! And as long as I am around, I will always provide a safe space for her.