I've been remiss in my blogging lately, but still spend a lot of time talking about issues of relationship and sexual abuse. The other day I was having a conversation with my staff about being bombarded with media depictions of abuse tends to normalize it so we don't even recognize these red flags. To me that's one of our greatest obstacles in ending abuse... recognizing it early. Here's her response.
This weekend and last weekend Saratoga Springs High School and Ballston Spa High School staged the fun-filled musical Footloose. In Saratoga Springs there were sell out crowds and it was clear that the audience of young and old alike were having a wonderful time. Audience members tapped their toes and laughed at the great renditions of colorful characters. They also cried along with Pastor Moore as he mourned the loss of his young teenage son in a drunk driving accident. We watched as he struggled to find his way and allow life to go on in some semblance for him and his parishioners and especially the teenagers in town who just want to DANCE!!
Footloose also highlights the very real social problem of relationship abuse among teens. The preacher’s daughter (Ariel) in an effort to capture her mourning father’s attention dates the young ruffian in town, Chuck Cranston. Although Chuck is caricatured as a high school drop out, motorcycle riding, leather jacket wearing bad boy. It is clear to those of us who work with domestic violence victims every day that his treatment of Ariel is abusive. He yells at her, intimidates her and expects her to OBEY his wishes. He ultimately ends up giving her a black eye when she puts up a fight against his orders. In one scene it is evident how scared Ariel is of him. How she “handles” him by appeasing him and agreeing with him in order to keep him calm and most importantly keep herself safe.
As I sat there and watched the show I wondered what the high school students thought about Chuck and Ariel’s relationship. I guessed that if asked, the girls would respond that Chuck was a “jerk” “loser” and would most fervently deny that they would ever date anyone like him. However often in abusive relationships it is easy to get in (often they begin as romantic and very nice) and not that easy to get out. Ariel was fortunate in this fictional tale that she had a stage full of characters that were willing to take Chuck on and dance him off the stage for good! In real life it is much more difficult to navigate controlling relationships. When a woman or man is in this kind of relationship it can be difficult to see it for what it is and the goal becomes to get through the day and keep yourself safe.
If you think a friend of family member may be in this kind of relationship, there are ways to be helpful. The first is to know that you cannot make the person end the relationship if they are not ready. Be supportive and listen when they are ready to talk. Do tell them that our agency is here and ready to listen. We understand why leaving can be so difficult. We will safety plan and will support them in whatever plan they want to pursue. Our services are free of charge and completely confidential.
Congratulations to the wonderfully talented casts of Footloose and thank you for portraying so many serious issues with such sensitivity. Bravo!