Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston
Sunday Mornings with Rania: Who is this Girl? She Represents Many
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t eavesdropping. I was waiting for my noon meeting. They were at the next table, in deep conversation. One was sharing her frustration and despair over a relationship that in my opinion echoed that horrible space between “control” and “abuse.” As I waited and listened, my social media feed ironically displayed International Women’s Day marches for equality and justice. I turned away from those images and back to this young woman. She needed help now. But who was she? How did she get to this point? And how can we really help her? How can we make sure we don’t raise young girls that turn into young women who are hurting like this? She, as it turns out, represents so many.
Her story seemed to go like this: She got pregnant at a young age with a man she was dating but would not marry. Seven years later, they live together in a house she bought and maintains with the child that she primarily cares for. According to her, he is an underachiever, immature, has admittedly cheated on her, doesn’t respect her thoughts or concerns and is extremely controlling over her time outside of work. During the hour I sat there next to her table, he appeared to call her at least four times. He demanded to know: Where was she? Who was she with? He wanted a photo sent to him…
My heart broke for this 20-something-year old. She was truly in despair. If she were to leave, she asked - How would she get him out of her house? Would he try to take their son? Would he and his friends harass her? What about the Florida trip they planned this summer? If they broke up, she’d lose the money she paid for his ticket. And what about their child? Wasn’t it best for the child to have a house with a mother and father?
I understand that when you are deep in the ditches, it is hard to see the way out . . . her confusion was palpable. But I couldn’t believe her friend’s guidance: “I don’t know what to tell you but for sure, you definitely don’t want to lose the money you paid for those tickets to Florida so you can’t do anything until later this year….”
Really?! Who cares about the ticket to Florida in a situation like this!
We need to do a better job talking to our young girls about healthy relationships and what they look like. We need to give them the tools to navigate away from bad choices and help others do the same. Here’s a very basic review.
- A good relationship is about give and take. It is about respecting each other. Lifting each other up. It is about talking, arguing, communicating, laughing, and being okay being together in full silence. It is about carrying the burden and load of all that your lives require – house, children, schedules, etc. together. It is about agreeing and disagreeing but always feeling safe and respected.
- You must get out if you are being physically, emotionally or mentally abused, but you must do so safely. This requires a strong and well thought-out exit plan that will also require the help of others. Here are two good resources: avda.org and hawc.org.
- Something must be done but you have a choice if you are in that space in between, where you love each other but feel unheard, disrespected, isolated, controlled or more. There is no abuse but you are not in a good place. (1) Don’t make excuses (I know that is hard); (2) admit you are dealing with a serious problem; (3) determine if you and your partner recognize the problem; and (4) can both commit to seeking and sticking to professional help. If your partner is unwilling to do the above, then (5) you have the tough choice to make about the future of your relationship. Consider that if your partner doesn’t recognize the problem then it only has the potential to grow and get worse.
This is a strange question but when is the last time we’ve gone over healthy and unhealthy relationships with the young girls and boys in our lives? I mean, really discussed it. The girl at the next table, who sat crushed and confused, represents so many who need help. The friend she went to for guidance, represent so many of us who are asked to give advice. Both could be any one of us at any time. Let’s get our answers straight and stand together to help. Let’s start investing in a future generation of healthy relationships today. It starts with knowing what a healthy relationship looks like and talking about it as often as possible. That is something we can all start doing today.