My husband and I are watching Greenleaf, the Oprah Winfrey series on Netflix. I think that if you were to look up the word, dysfunctional in the dictionary, you would see a photo of the Greenleaf family. They give new meaning to the word. There are so many issues and skeletons in that family that it makes you appreciate the family you have.
The issue I want to address is teenage dating violence. One of the Greenleafs, Zora, is dating a pop singer named, Isaiah. It turns out that Isaiah is abusive. He flies off the handle and gets verbally and physically abusive. He got angry with Zora when her mother found a condom in her drawer. Her arms have bruises which she hides by wearing long sleeve tops.
Whenever he gets physical with her (grabbing, pushing, slapping), he apologizes and promises never to do it again until the next time. It was the usual cycle in an abusive relationship. You have the “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again”, “You make me act like this” and “I love you so much.” What is sad is that the victim keeps forgiving the abuser and things continue to get worse. He continues to abuse her and she seems powerless to do anything about it. He tells her he loves her, makes promises and she believes him and continues seeing him.
No one knew about the abuse until Zora’s cousin Sophia saw Isaiah hit her. Sophia went and told Zora’s father, “I just saw Isaiah hit Zora.” Immediately, Jacob went to find Isaiah and punched him. Zora was angry with Sophia for telling her Dad. What do you do when you see a friend or loved one being abused? Do you keep quiet because speaking up could jeopardize your relationship or do you put the welfare of the person above your relationship? Did Sophia do the right thing? In my opinion, she did.
But the story doesn’t end there. Zora runs off with Isaiah but is found, thankfully. We don’t know what became of Isaiah. I hope he gets help. As for Zora, she needs counseling. She needs to understand that love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, not selfish or rude or demand its own way (like pressuring her into having sex) (1 Corinthians 13:4, 5, TLB). If Isaiah loved her, he would treat her with respect. He wouldn’t bully or try to control her. He would respect her family as well. Every family has ground rules and Zora’s was no different. There was one occasion when Zora’s father found Isaiah and her in her bedroom. After the father dealt with him, he had to leave. Sophia’s boyfriend and Isaiah are as different as night and day. Sophia is enjoying a healthy relationship while Zora was dealing with an abusive one.
How can you tell if your teenager is in an abusive relationship? Here are seven signs:
- Your child’s intimate partner is extremely jealous or possessive to the point where your child stops spending time with other friends and family. If someone questions your child about this, the response might be something like, “She thinks my friends don’t like her, so she doesn’t like spending time around them,” or “She thinks they’re a bad influence on me and she’s just trying to help.”
- You see unexplained marks or bruises on your child.
- You notice your son or daughter is depressed or anxious.
- Your child stops participating in extracurricular or other interests like gaming or even shopping.
- Your child begins to dress differently. One example: he or she wears loose clothing because the partner doesn’t like him/her to “show off” his/her body or attract someone else’s attention.
- Your child worries when he or she can’t text or call the partner back immediately, saying that the partner might get upset.
- Your child expresses fear about the way his or her partner might react in a given situation.
What do you do if you suspect that your teen is in an unhealthy (abusive) relationship? Here are 11 steps:
- Be observant and look for signs.
- Calmly start a conversation with your teen.
- Be supportive of their situation.
- Focus on the unhealthy behaviors.
- Keep the conversation friendly, not preachy.
- Don’t place the blame on them.
- Allow your child to make their own decision.
- Offer solutions to them.
- If there’s any risk of danger, call the police.
- Expect more conversations in the future.
- Don’t get discouraged if they refuse to talk to you.
I see that in season 3 of Greenleaf, Zora will get back together with Isaiah. But, hope is on the horizon. It looks like she will come to her senses and dump him for good.
If you have a teenage daughter, let her know that she is precious and of great value and that she deserves to be with a guy who can appreciate her.