Sunday, June 28, 2009

Teen Relationship Violence

Ashley has written about this already, but I was mid-post when I read hers, so I'm going to be repeating a little of what she's already said.

I came across this article via links throughout the feminist blogosphere, and had to comment. While it's reassuring that there is greater recognition of reproductive control as a form of relationship violence, and yes, that there is more awareness of relationship violence itself, I must echo Ashley in reference to the slut-shaming language in this paragraph:

"The first time I got pregnant against my will, I had the baby," she says. Along with several STDs. (He'd been her only partner.) After a stint in jail for violating an ex's order of protection, he was back, promising never to hurt her, gushing about family happiness. (emphasis mine)

I assume you see the little sidebar there? It serves to reassure us that even though the young woman has several STIs, she's ok; she's only had one partner, so it's the fault of an abuser and not a slut. I noticed quite a bit of that sort of language in the article. The idea of teen pregnancy as an indicator of relationship violence IN ADDITION TO BEING a measure of "promiscuity," (because you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex, remember, ladies!) and then, later, this:

"It's clearly out-and-out control of a woman's body. Control for control's sake," says Miller. It's an urge that stems, experts say, from an inability to manage their own fears and insecurities.(emphasis mine)"

As in, poor boys are just scared and insecure, so they have to rape someone to make themselves feel better.

Despite the author's obvious message, which is, to be honest, an important one, I'm inclined to bring to light the shoddy reporting going on, in addition to some pretty nasty stereotype promotion:

And the girls: Why do they stay? Classic domestic-violence pathology, say experts. In an unfortunate mix of psychological circumstances, some girls take such intense control to mean, "I'm really special to this person," says Giggans. Plus, remember: Often, they have this guy's kid.

If the Rihanna/Chris Brown situation taught us nothing else, it's that women don't like to be told their reasons for staying in abusive relationships. My guess, having witnessed and been part of a few myself, is that there are as many reasons as there are relationships.

The article also manages to bring a little bit of straight privilege in, as well:

"There is evidence of analogous male-on-male sexual violence, but it hasn't been studied in depth."

This despite the fact that I'm sure this woman has adequate resources to look up a great number of studies and reports on homosexual relationship violence. I'm suspicious that this little aside was simply an attempt to acknowledge the fact that there might be a non-heteronormative problem here as well, but that she wasn't going to take the time to discuss it or even investigate it.

Ms Harris, I appreciate your coverage of what is certainly an overlooked symptom of relationship violence. Next time, though, perhaps your reporting should be a little bit more thought-out. A woman's sexual history does not need to be an aside to her claims of abuse; not all sexually active teen girls are being promiscuous; the idea of "classic domestic-violence pathology" is cringe-worthy and reminds me of things like this; and LGBT issues are worthy of more than a casual mention.

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