Putting an end to the romanticizing and normalizing of abusive relationships

In 2019, why do people still want to find their Romeo? Did they even bother to read the end of the play? 

Romanticizing abusive and unhealthy relationships in the media is nothing new.

Shakespeare did it, J.K. Rowling did it, and even my beloved Gilmore Girls are guilty of it. 

But why does the media continue to idolize unhealthy and abusive relationships knowing that viewers will perceive them as ideal? 

By not holding the media accountable and allowing them to continue to romanticize controlling and possessive relationships, we are teaching people to ignore the major relationship red flags – controlling behavior, lack of communication, gaslighting, and so much more. 

The media is teaching us to normalize not just physical abuse but also mental, verbal, and sexual abuse.  

The number of normalized unhealthy relationships is appalling. It seems like almost every “perfect relationship” or every couple that is “meant to be” in media is actually really toxic –  Rory Gilmore and Dean Forester, Harley Quinn and the Joker, and even Ross Gellar and Rachel Green. 

Whether you agree or not, Ross did cheat on Rachel during their “break.” 

On the other hand, we cannot just blame the media for this issue because society is equally at fault. There is not nearly enough funding being dedicated to providing education to teens and young adults about the differences between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship and the misconceptions surrounding domestic violence are immense. 

According to the non-profit organization Future Without Violence, most students believe abuse means only violence which is not true in all cases. 

Abuse can be more than just physical – it can be verbal, mental, and/or sexual. This belief that abuse is only physical can be extremely dangerous because it makes it harder for individuals to recognize what is considered toxic and abusive. 

We teach young children that if someone is mean to them, it is because they like them. This statement teaches young children to associate abusive behavior with love. 

In the article, “You Should Never Tell Your Kids ‘He’s Mean Because He Likes You,’” author Joanna Schroeder argues the statement “they’re mean because they like you” can be considered victim blaming because the child did not ask for this negative attention and by writing negative behavior off as a crush, it can make children believe that they do not have a proper support system when it is needed. 

One major misconception is that women are the only victims of abusive relationships. 

Even Framingham State’s website page on their domestic violence unit only focuses on women being survivors of domestic abuse. However, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men have experienced physical violence with an intimate partner. 

According to the US Department of Justice, men are less likely to report abuse when it occurs than women.

As a society, we should not be allowing men to suffer in silence in fear of no one hearing them or believing them. 

But how do we fix this problem surrounding domestic abuse and toxic relationships? 

We can start by pushing schools to educate students about healthy relationships and addressing adolescent dating violence.

As a community, we should be pushing Framingham State to be more aware that domestic abuse does not only affect females. FSU provides a domestic violence training program through their crime prevention unit which can be very helpful in preventing future cases of abuse. 

We also need to push administrators and leaders on campus to discuss this topic more so that our University is more educated on the normalization of unhealthy relationships in both media and also our society. 

Rachel Matos, outreach and prevention coordinator at Voices Against Violence in Framingham, suggested to me that as a campus we should bring in more workshops to cover these topics and create campaigns which explain the harmful messages the media presents to adolescents. 

One of these workshops Voices Against Violence does is about Media Literacy and how it contributes to gender-based violence. 

To the individuals in abusive relationships, we hear you and we are there for you. 

For those who are in an abusive relationship and would like to seek help or guidance, here are some resources on and off campus that you can contact. 

Voices Against Violence Hotline: 1-800-593-1125

Framingham State University Police Department Domestic Violence Unit: (508) 626-4911

Framingham State University Health Services: (508) 626-4900.

Framingham State University Counseling Center: (508) 626-4640

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