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Marjorie Gilberg Headshot

Dating Violence? Maybe Not But MTV's 16 & Pregnant Does Not Make Me LOL

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MTV's Teen Mom "star" Amber Portwood was officially charged last week with two felony counts and one misdemeanor for domestic violence and battery. The charges against Amber were derived from footage recorded by MTV during the shoot.

This news came immediately on the heels of an episode of MTV's 16 & Pregnant, which featured yet another unhealthy relationship segment. A young woman, Markai, physically attacked her boyfriend James, after learning that he cheated on her in the beginning of their relationship. On the show, James attempts to escape Markai's aggression but she pursues him.

After the segment, an information card popped up on the television screen with a link to loveisrespect.org, "If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please visit loveisrespect.org." Seems harmless enough. But for some reason, MTV's seemingly responsible move to provide a help resource spurred hundreds of alarming tweets that reinforce the dire need for us to educate people (young and old) about the reality of dating violence.

"She threw ONE punch at him and it automatically became 'dating violence' WOW!"

Generally speaking, someone who hits a dating partner is likely to have done it before and is much more likely to do it again. Break the Cycle defines dating violence as a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. From this snippet, we can't jump to a conclusion. There may not be systematic abuse taking place -- but a highlight reel from a show that condenses ten months of a young person's life into a half-hour does not provide enough information to judge. Regardless, it IS a demonstration of extremely unhealthy relationship behavior. And like it or not, hitting someone just because they hurt your feelings is considered assault in every state.

"Lmao at MTV for throwing that dating violence thing at the end of they lil fight on 16 & prego."

Dating violence is real and it's serious. Speak with the parents of any young victim who has been tormented, physically hurt or even murdered by a dating partner. What might appear to be a "lil fight" could be just a glimpse into a long-term pattern of controlling, abusive behaviors. When you witness a friend or family member experiencing violence at the hands of the dating partner, do not dismiss it. What happens in public is often much less severe than what is happening in private. You may be the only person who reaches out to help and you could save a life.

"That is NOT dating violence! That is L O V E... stupid commercial #16&pregnant"

Some people perceive abusive behaviors as acceptable--or even worse, as LOVE. As an advocate for young people, I would never second-guess a teen's estimation of love and you don't have to be young to confuse these behaviors. Everyone, regardless of their age, can experience and feel real love. But abusive behaviors are not love. Jealousy is not love. Possessiveness is not love. Control is not love. Accusations are not love. Attacks are not love.

"Why did they show a "dating violence commerical" clearly nobody was getting the "rihanna beatdown" lol."

Dating violence does not have to leave a physical wound, nor does it have to include severe physical violence to be considered abuse. Abuse takes many forms and a skilled abuser may know how to exert power and control over their target without even laying a hand on her or him. Abuse can be verbal and emotional or it can be sexual. Many victims of abuse are targeted through technology -- and while it may not leave a visible scar, it can damage reputations, trigger legal repercussions and sometimes even push a victim to attempt or commit suicide.

"How was that dating violence when she hit him? Or did he hit her too?"

Both women and men can be victims of abuse in a dating relationship. The vastness of domestic violence undoubtedly stems from a culture that tolerates the subjugation of women and minorities. But we cannot overlook that violence is tolerated throughout our culture. It is glorified and promulgated every single day. Inevitably, we will continue to see more victims -- regardless of gender -- if we do not make a change.

"She hit him n then they gon show the disclaimer on dating violence...funny!"

There is nothing funny about dating violence. We need to eliminate the stereotypes about dating abuse and spread the truth -- anyone can be a target, anyone can be a perpetrator.