By: Vivian, Peer educator, age 16, South Burlington High School
During our Peer Advocate training for Women Helping Battered Women (WHBW), my friends and I have delved into the world of teen dating violence in order to support our peers. WHBW’s wonderful Educator, Emily Fredette, guides us through aspects like dating violence causes, warning flags, and program options. Recently, Emily shared with us The Signs, a short film by the Digital Bodega production company.
The Signs starts with a budding teenage relationship. The tone is sweet and innocent while Amanda texts her best friend (Ashley) and gushes that Nic has asked her out. We chuckle as Amanda and Nic bond for weeks over their common love of cheese. However, Nic’s jealousy emerges once Ashley asks Amanda to hang out. The violence culminates while Nic looks over his girlfriend’s shoulder to see a project-related text from her schoolmate. He bursts into a rage. Then, like nothing has happened, Nic buys Amanda a teddy bear and apologizes profusely for loving her so much. The situation takes a dive when Nic pressures Amanda to send an intimate photo, threatening “You don’t love me. Why don’t we just break up?” Subsequent events cause a whirlwind of emotions, finally forcing Amanda to reach out to Ashley for help. The film’s final words show possible warning signs and urge abuse victims to seek help.
After watching the film, the peer advocates noted our reactions and discussed our reflections. We first mentioned that the video showed genuine features of an abusive relationship. Moreover, the video had included almost every lesson of our Peer Advocate training. In particular, any abusive relationship, no matter the circumstance, involves one dating partner trying to gain power and maintain control over the other. Nic falls under most categories in our training’s Teen Power and Control Wheel, such as isolation, sexual coercion, minimizing, and threats.
Furthermore, we recognized the general cycle of phases in an abusive relationship. The “honeymoon phase” occurs when Amanda and Nic first start dating and also after Nic apologizes to Amanda. It is this euphoric stage that draws a victim back into the relationship. The “tension-building phase” soon develops into the “explosive phase,” shown by Nic’s violent rages and threatening demands for a photo. Meanwhile, we see that Ashley, despite her clear concern for Amanda, could be less of a bystander. Perhaps Ashley could directly find her best friend to be an ally. As for the video’s visuals, we admired that the story takes place solely on social media platforms. Technology ranging from joyous Facebook posts, to Tweets, to panicked text messages can all become very involved in dating violence.
Overall, the WHBW Peer Advocates concluded that this film was informational, interesting, realistic, and produced wonderfully. It reveals that a dating partner does not have the right to exert excessive power and control, nor is their jealousy, possessiveness, or even abuse “romantic.” Above all, domestic violence can often stem from seemingly charming and simple roots; one only needs to look for the signs.