After class, Serena approached LifeWire’s Youth Advocate to talk about what she’d learned from LifeWire’s presentation on healthy relationships. Her voice shook with emotion as she spoke. Serena explained that her older brother Simon had been in an abusive relationship a few years before.
Witnessing dating violence
Serena described the verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse Simon experienced from his girlfriend. How she tried to manipulate and threaten him with comments like “If you loved me, you would do this,” and “I guess you don’t care about me, no one does. I should kill myself.”
She was a constant presence in Simon’s life. Calling all hours of the day, demanding his attention when Simon had practice or family commitments, and intentionally causing problems with his friends and then demanding Simon choose between them and her. The abuse affected Simon’s mental health, his relationships with his friends and family, and his ability to enjoy the things he loved.
Serena teared up as she talked about how LifeWire’s healthy relationship training made it clear that domestic and dating violence isn’t just men hurting women. All genders can experience abuse.
Overcoming stigma as a male survivor
Because she’d seen it first-hand, Serena found it reassuring to learn that dating violence can take many forms. Serena wished Simon could have had the training when he was younger. “The training might have saved him a lot of pain and isolation.” She shared that Simon didn’t tell any of his friends what was happening because he was embarrassed. The stigma of being a young male survivor of dating violence kept him from reaching out for support from friends and community resources. But, Serena reflected, she was so glad the training would help other young men like her brother.