Forgotten Victims: Men in Abusive Relationships

February 20, 2018


By Joe Solaro

I’ve been a victim of teen dating violence. That’s right: I, a 6’ 2’’, 170-pound male have been a victim at the hands of a considerably smaller female partner. This wasn’t physical abuse—but it was abuse. Here is what it looked like:

Psychologically and emotionally, I was manipulated into bending to her will. I hadn’t spent time with my friends in months; they stopped inviting me to things, because I was never not with her. Even if I wanted to hang out with my friends, she would find a way to bring me back under her control. Any form of resistance was met with anger and blame for whatever problem she was having that day.

She wanted me to change who I was fundamentally. I couldn’t be a careless 16-year-old anymore; I had to be more mature and not concern myself with childish things. She controlled what I wore, what I said, and even what music I listened to. My parents told me I looked sad when I was at home, and I said “No, I’m fine!” even though I wasn’t. I just wanted to please her—but no matter how hard I tried, nothing worked.

It wasn’t until we had been dating for a year and 4 months that I realized what I had really gotten into. It came over me like a huge wave over a beach. I finally saw how she had hurt me, how she had changed me for the worse. For most of our time together, I barely even knew what was happening, but once I realized that she was abusing me it made the experiences of the past immediately clear.

She never hit me, pushed me, or physically harmed me—but the emotional damage was done.  Thankfully, I had the support and ability to get out of that relationship, but not everybody gets the chance I did.

Non-physical violence is often overlooked as a form of violence—as are male victims. Too often, male victims are either explicitly or implicitly told they are supposed to “man up” and just deal with it. But it’s time for society to realize that men can be victims of abuse. It is a far more widespread problem than most people believe.

Indeed, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “1 in 7 men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.” But nonetheless, young men are rarely seen as victims of teen dating violence, because they don’t have the bruises to show for it—or are unwilling to admit they have been abused out of fear of being seen as weak in the eyes of others, particularly fellow men.

Men shouldn’t have to be afraid of being shamed by society for coming out against their abusers, it is simply apathetic to think otherwise. There are a lot of reasons why men won’t admit to being a victim, like being discouraged to talk about their emotions from an early age, or feeling like they may face social sanctions for not fitting into the cultural definition of “masculinity” by admitting they have feelings.

YouTube Video

Joe Ehrmann has an amazing TEDx Talk discrediting this idea of emotionless masculinity. 

I believe it is extremely helpful in trying to break through the stoic male stereotype.

Furthermore, our culture often imagines abuse in a particular way: a large man beating a smaller woman seems an indelible image. The power of this image can lead male victims to unable to recognize that they are victims at all. With a lack of recognition comes an inability to leave abusers.

This, in turn, creates long-lasting damage that can severely affect the well-being of young men even if they do eventually escape their abuser. Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, reports that “Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.”

Young men aren’t immune to abuse in relationships and should never be treated as such. They cannot be overlooked anymore. The lasting effects are too serious for this problem to be kept in the dark. It is our responsibility as a society to reject the stereotype that men just need to endure pain and not let it affect them. We must all realize that male victims do exist. I can attest to that. And I can also attest that there is hope for all victims of abuse—we just need to be sure that no sufferers are left in the dark.

Joe Solaro is a Freshman at Saint Louis University. He is an ally and proponent of social justice in the “Leadership for Social Change” learning community at SLU.


February 14, 2018 – A Shattered Fairytale

February 14, 2018
By Emily Tobar

Let me take you back to a simpler time–one where you’re sixteen again, and about to go on your first date. Hopefully you’ve showered, brushed your teeth so your mouth doesn’t taste like high school cafeteria pizza, and put on that extra layer of deodorant. Because let’s face it, you’re already sweating nervously waiting for your date to show up. But these are good nerves, because everything is bright and shiny and new. A fairy tale romance is just one awkward movie date hand-hold away! And you are this close to becoming a part of that story book. A million things are excitingly racing through your mind, but I can almost guarantee that the thought being a victim of teen dating violence isn’t one of them.

Unfortunately, however, teen dating violence is a common occurrence thing in our society today. It is a silent epidemic, however–one generally left undiscussed and incorrectly recognized.

Why is this the case? First, teen dating violence is definitionally unclear. People seem to assume that “violence” only means physically brutality–but violence can take much broader forms. According to loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline that seeks to end silence around teen dating violence and provide resources to those impacted by it, “Teen dating violence (TDV) is a pattern of behavior that includes physical, emotional, verbal or sexual abuse used by one person in an intimate relationship to exert power and control over another.” TDV is an umbrella term and, just like people, TDV comes in all forms, shapes and sizes. There’s not one distinct case that “fits the mold,” which can make it difficult to recognize.

Indeed, everyone’s experience with TDV is different, even down to why the abuser is inflicting the abuse. It’s not always simply to exert physical power. It can also be to humiliate, instill fear, or even retaliate against a partner. Whatever reason abusers use to “justify” their actions, it’s never acceptable to use violence to harm or demean another person.

While the physical wounds of TDV can heal over time, the mental wounds are often much more long-lasting: “Extensive effects of being abused puts victim at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence,” documents loveisrespect. The stakes are too high to remain silent about TDV. The mental trauma that follows after the fact of the abuse itself can impact not only the victims, but the community around them.

Just how many people are suffering this way? I would truly like to say that the numbers are low. I wish I could claim that’s the reason we don’t typically hear about TDV. However, that’s simply not the case at all. In just one year, almost 1.5 million high-school students across the United States will be exposed to some form of TDV. That’s 1.5 million high schoolers facing a harsh reality that they should never have to experience. Dating in your teens is supposed to be a time to safely experiment. It’s a time to go out and get cheap hamburgers on a Friday night and make awkward small talk. Fairytale expectations–as fictional as they are–shouldn’t be shattered before they have barely had the chance to be fulfilled. Everyone deserves love and kindness.

Why is the number of teens being violated so high? Well for starters, 81% of parents don’t even know what TDV is–and if they do, they don’t believe it could actually happened to their teen. A subsequent lack of information and communication on the part of parents is extremely damaging to a young adult and harms their mental stability.

Speaking personally for a moment, as a young person who has, in the eyes of the world, nearly graduated to adult status and exceeded the teen stage, I can admit to fully living a life of impressionability, fragility, and at times, emotional storminess. Of course, everyone experiences their teen years differently, but if a harmful, questionable thing happens to you under conditions where statistically 81% of adults can’t or won’t give you the help you need… well, it’s no wonder that only 33% of teens ever tell anyone about their experiences of abuse. It’s difficult for someone who’s already been made incredibly vulnerable to become vulnerable all over again when they disclose their story–especially if they are not given the proper environment in which to share their experiences.

For our society to keep progressing, we need to educate ourselves fully on teen dating violence. In order to support survivors and stop future assaulters we owe it to ourselves to and our communities to learn how to spot warning signs. Nobody–especially people so young, with so much potential to give the world–deserves a shattered fairy tale.

Emily Tobar is a freshman theater major at Saint Louis University.


Celebrating Black History Month in STL!

February 14, 2018

Issues regarding race are deeply rooted in St. Louis’s history and in the literal infrastructure of the city itself. The racial injustices this city has seen, and continues to see, range from housing decimation to police brutality. During these times of unrest and lack of justice, the city has come together through forms of protests, artistic outlets, conversations, and community outreach. These acts have cultivated a city of resistance and cultural enrichment. Join in celebrating Black History Month in our very own city by attending local events that celebrate the talent, intelligence, strength, and artistry of African Americans.

Black History Month Events in STL:

Keynote Speaker: A Night with Angela Davis

  • What: Noted civil rights activist and scholar Angela Davis will be the keynote speaker for SLU’s Black History Month celebrations.
  • When: Wednesday, February 14 at 6pm
  • Where: Wool Ballroom, Busch Student Center 20 N Grand Blvd, St. Louis 63103

Tarana Burke

  • What: Come see a lecture held by the female activist who founded the “Me Too” campaign, Tarana Burke. There will be a Q&A afterwards. Make sure to come and get a seat early!
  • When: Monday, February 19 at 6:30pm-9:30pm
  • Where: Repertory Theatre of St. Louis 130 Edgar Rd., St. Louis 63119

Assessing the Ferguson Effect

  • What: A discussion of the social and political consequences of the 2014 civil unrest in Ferguson and subsequent activist efforts.
  • When: Tuesday, February 20 at 6pm-9pm
  • Where: Ferguson Brewing Company 418 South Florissant Road, Ferguson, MO 63136

Whose Streets? Screening

  • What: Join in a screening of “Whose Streets?”, an award-winning documentary film that explores the 2014 unrest in Ferguson after the death of Michael Brown. The film shows the racial tension, grief and rage of residents as they confront police and national guard officers armed with military weapons.
  • When: Friday, February 23 at 7pm-9pm
  • Where: Eliot Unitarian Chapel 100 N Taylor Ave, Kirkwood, MO 63122

Qu’art Presents: Black is the new Black

  • What: Each season of the year Qu’art brings a new show that shines light onto a particular group within the queer community. In honor of Black History Month they will be showcasing a vast array of queer artists of color for their three year anniversary!
  • When: Saturday, February 24 at 8pm-3am
  • Where: The Crack Fox 1114 Olive St, St. Louis 63101


End Silence, End Violence

February 13, 2018


By Grace Nyikes
Love may be vulnerable, but it should never hurt. (Photo by Sydney Sims.)

Frozen. Stuck. Silent. I was swallowed by doubt and guilt. I’d laughed off the small things so now the major things were mine to bear. At least that’s what I told myself as the power slowly slipped from my hands into his.

The only thing worse than living my story is knowing that it is an entirely common one. My childhood certainly wasn’t sheltered, and I knew from a young age what violence was and the many forms it came in. I was well educated and well supported. I should have been immune. But it still happened to me. So let’s stop talking about what should happen and start talking about what does.

The statistics for teen dating violence are staggering. According to, 1 in 3 young people will be in some form of an unhealthy romantic relationship. Of those, only 1/3 will confide in someone about their abuse. Taken together, this means not only that violence occurs at an alarming rate, but also that over half of these occurrences are silenced.

Teen dating violence is about more than statistics, though. It is a reality that many have lived and, unfortunately, many continue to live. Over the years, we have started to put faces and names to the numbers. There are people like Crystal Sanchez, who opened up about her story in the Huffington Post in 2016. There are organizations like Love Is Respect, which offfers resources and support for people experiencing dating violence. There are so many steps being taken in the right direction. But there is much work left to be done.

A crucial element to the conversation on teen dating violence is to acknowledge that it has no single story. Abuse does not fit neatly in a box. In 2017, Psychology Today offered a series of questions to help readers recognize whether or not they are in an unhealthy relationship. This list is by no means exhaustive, however. Abuse is felt—not defined.

In any relationship, platonic or romantic, it is important to know one’s boundaries. Even more significantly, it is important to know when one’s boundaries are being crossed. This is a simple thing to say—but a difficult reality to know. There can always be a “but.” We can always find a reason to see the good in someone. We can always find a way to make ourselves smaller in order to allow someone else to feel bigger.

For those of you reading who are all too familiar with the weight of the words above, I’ll leave you with this: there is so much more to come. Take a second. Take a breath. Then open your mouth and speak your truth. No matter how trapped you may feel, no one and nothing can take away your right to speak up and speak out. There are people on your side. There are people that can help.

There are more days for you. There are brighter days and better days. And most importantly, there will be a day where you wake up and realize that everything you ever needed to be free is inside of you.

In light and solidarity.

Grace Nyikes is a senior at Saint Louis University studying Entrepreneurship and Service Leadership, with an emphasis on using business as a catalyst for positive social change. 

 How to Recognize an Unhealthy Relationship When Stereotypical Warning Signs Aren’t Present

February 12, 2018

By Celia Searles

Dating as a teenager is arguably one of the most difficult things a young person will do. On top of the usual pressures of school, extracurriculars, and forming one’s individual identity, navigating an intimate relationship with another person can be confusing. Indeed, to do so leaves many young people questioning the quality of the relationships they’re in or the ones they’re pursuing. With recent national news focused on how well-known figures we looked up to have been involved in sexual misconduct, it’s even harder to discern what relationships in our own lives are healthy and which ones are not. Furthermore, today pornography remains one of the leading sexual educators for young people. Needles to say, due to factors like these, it seems even more difficult now than in the past for young people to effectively navigate intimate relationships in a manner that is safe and positive for both parties. That being said, it can be especially difficult to tell if you’re in an unhealthy relationship if stereotypical abuse signs aren’t present, especially on a daily basis. Rarely are things ever black and white; we most often exist in a moral grey area. Yet when discerning the health of relationship, these are some of the key things to look out for:

Does your partner…

…Discourage you from spending time with your other friends or disapprove of other friendships in your life?

…Withhold affection to manipulate you or get what they want?

…Act disinterested when you’re talking about something important to you or to the relationship?

…Get upset when you don’t want to be intimate or push your boundaries?

…Try to assert themselves as smarter or more knowledgeable than you?

…Refuse to compromise?

…Make you feel worse about yourself instead of better?

…Not reciprocate gifts or kind gestures on a routine basis?

…Not respect your answer when you say “no” to something?

…Try to control what you wear, what music you listen to, or how you spend your time?

…Not make time for you?

…Need constant reassurance that you still love them?

If some or all of these signs are present in your relationship, it may be a good idea to reconsider whether the positives aspects outweigh the negative warning signs. Consulting with a trusted family member or friend about your concerns is often an effective way to process the relationship. Abuse can be a heavy topic to discuss, but it’s a lot more common than one would think. Statistically, one in three young people be in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, and only one third of those will talk to someone about it. But in order to discern the quality of your relationship and decide what the best next steps, talking to someone you trust, and who can give a fresh perspective, is essential.

Frequent arguments can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship.

You might look at this list and see a few points that seem to describe your relationship, but you may believe, overall, that it is not harmful or detrimental to your mental or physical health. In this case, talking to someone you trust and in order to examine the relationship with a critical, truthful eye is smart. Even if you decide to continue the relationship, recognizing what changes need to be made and what fundamental wrongs need to be righted is essential to putting yourself on the road to a healthier and more stable relationship with your current partner, or with a different one someday.

Dating relationships as an adolescent are difficult to navigate, and while they can bring great joy to a person’s life, they can also hurt someone or otherwise tear them down. A relationship should be a positive and freeing partnership between two people, where both parties are supportive, affectionate, and trusting. At the end of the day, if your relationship does not embody these qualities, there are more people out there who will treat you right and won’t make you compromise your happiness or who you are along the way.

Celia Searles is a freshman at Saint Louis University. She studies Journalism in the Department of Communication, serves as a writer and social media chair for Her Campus, and is involved in Greek life.


Breaking the Chain: Putting a Stop to Teen Dating Violence

February 5, 2018
By Aubra Ladd

Do you know a teenager who has ever experienced sexual, emotional, or physical violence in a relationship? Chances are that you do. Teen dating violence (TDV) is a pattern of abuse from a partner. It could take many different forms—it could be verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, or digital. Verbal abuse means derogatory words used to demean and belittle an individual, such as yelling, making threats, or mocking. Emotional abuse means the purposeful infliction of feelings of trauma—exposing one to anxiety, depression, and other mental health assaults. Physical abuse is to causing injury or harm to the body. Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity. And lastly, digital abuse is the use of technologies to bully, harass, intimidate, or expose a partner. Teen dating violence may include any of these—and often more than one. Under these circumstances, a relationship is toxic, and the partner who is being abused needs to remove themselves from the relationship. But often, they need help.


Although it is not widely spoken about, TDV is a growing epidemic. In fact, according to the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, “Approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner.” This means nearly one in five high school students in the United States are affected by this abuse. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance found “10% of high school students reported physical victimization and 10% reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months before they were surveyed.” Clearly, more teenagers are being subdued by violence than many people imagine. While TDV is often stereotyped as a male being violent toward a female partner, it is important to note that women can be abusive, and that violence can be a problem in non-heterosexual relationships as well. Teen males are, however, more prone to violence than females. According to some scholars of adolescent violence, “Almost 32% of male adolescents engage in some form of violence towards their partners while violence from females is nearly half of that rate.” A 2017 CDC Report found that “Approximately 7% of women and 4% of men who ever experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of partner violence by that partner before 18 years of age.” This statistic is important because it unveils how early in life violence can happen.


It is our responsibility to educate each other about TDV while also looking for signs of this abuse. Being able to tell the difference between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive relationships could help save a loved one’s life—or your own. Although every relationship is different, and what is unhealthy in one may be the norm for another, there are some common signals of abuse. These include one partner excessively checking the other’s cell phone records and social media networks without permission, which can aid in digital abuse; one partner accusing another of wrongdoing based on their own jealousy or insecurity; one partner belittling the other and exacerbate that partner’s insecurities; a consistent and explosive temper; one partner attempting to isolate the other from family and friends; a partner causing the other physical pain; engaging in nonconsensual sex; and one partner pressuring the other to perform an act that they do not want to do.


If you or someone you know are experiencing TDV, there are resources to help. One is loveisrespect, the only dating abuse helpline for teens in the United States and its territories. To contact Loveisrespect, call 1-866-331-9474, chat online at, or text “loveis” to 22522. Together, we can break the chain of abuse and put a stop to TDV.

Aubra Ladd is a first-year student at Saint Louis University. She is an advocate for equal rights and a part of the “Leadership for Social Change” learning community.


Denim Day

April 27, 2017


In 1992, an 18-year-old girl stepped foot into her driving instructor’s vehicle in the small town of Muro Lucano, just 60 miles from Naples – anticipatory for the lesson and new as a student, she sat in the passenger seat and was driven to an isolated location. Though naïve during the first moments of the detour route her instructor took, the situation drastically escalated. Pulling the girl out of the car, he wrestled her out of one leg of her jeans, forcefully raping her.

Fast forward to that night: after the man made her drive home, she told her parents about the assault, who supported her to press charges. Fortunately, the perpetrator was arrested and prosecuted, but the rape conviction did not stop there as he appealed the sentence.

In 1998, the case advanced to the Italian Supreme Court, as written by But what was once thought as a deplorable crime against an innocent girl was flipped upside-down: she was pitted against the court who overturned the case, dismissing the assaulter.

How could this possibly be, though? How could the highest court not support a girl’s claim for being raped when the evidence was clearly laid out? – or was it really apparent? The Chief Judge argued that since the victim wore very tight jeans, she needed to help in the removal of them, thereby making it consensual sex, as reported by University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s “Campus for Awareness and Relationship Education” page. Still, this is no excuse for an overturn.

Amidst the background of “Denim Day,” we are all asked to make a social statement because there is no excuse for rape. On Wednesday, April 26, the community was asked to wear denim jeans in support of rape survivors. The first Denim Day event was organized in 1999 by Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit organization in Los Angeles, which was led by Patti Giggans, as written by University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

From registering to wear jeans on Denim Day to locating events specific to the cause in your area or ordering a $5 Denim Day toolkit with ideas for events and engagement, the opportunities for participation are growing. According to, as of today over 10 million participants have registered to rise up against not only the Italian Supreme Court ruling, but also rape cases that occur on college campuses, at work, etc.

In honor of Denim Day, senior Andy Lou writes “He/she is drunk  she/he wants/ought to get raped!” Though the 18-year-old girl was not drunk when she was victimized, nor was she under the influence of drugs, Lou’s statement highlights how rape is never okay, no matter what the conditions may be.

“The ruling by the Italian Supreme Court was not only stupid, but also very sad,” he said. “There are so many similar instances that occur, like if a girl or even guy got drunk – sometimes, the judges will try to pinpoint the problem on what the victim did wrong, but in reality, it should be the opposite. This kind of social injustice happens everywhere.”

How exactly can people’s voices be heard and social justice delivered? Of course, there is the classic donating to various charities to support sexual assault survivors and putting on events to raise awareness, giving a voice to the victims who were once voiceless, but Lou also explains that listening to those assaulted is a primary step in developing their confidence and stabilizing their mental health.

“Listening to a friend or someone you know and reassuring him/her that he/she didn’t do anything wrong is the first thing that should be done in order to help build the person back up,” he said. “Your appearance should not be related to what you deserve, or you looking beautiful does not mean that you want to have a sexual encounter. A lot of people have an ego of trying to ‘get somewhere,’ but we all have that hope that one day it will stop. We all can do something to help with this cause by promoting what’s right versus what is wrong.”

I am asking you to listen to those perpetrated and connect with the online movement first – visit the YWCA website or that of Denim Day’s; utilize hashtags, such as “#noexcuse” or “#denimday” to spread the word.

Smart Women, Smart Money

April 25, 2017

AdvocateLegislationJoin us in raising awareness about the issues that affect women’s long-term economic empowerment (the wage gap, paid sick and family leave, fair scheduling practices, educational access, and affordable child care) and how you can join YWCA in advocating for increased economic security for women.



Are you ready to take charge of your financial future? April, aka Financial Literacy Awareness Month, is the perfect month to start your journey to economic independence. Women are at higher risk for financial instability, but with the right planning women can achieve financial success and stability. Check out the following information to learn what women’s financial reality is, what small steps you can take to take control of your finances, and free or inexpensive local and national resources that can support you on your financial literacy journey. Also, don’t forget about our Smart Money Smart Women event April 29th! Sources: • • • • •

April 17, 2017

Why Women need to be financially literateTake Charge of YourChange Your Trajectory

Why Women need to be financially literate (002)

Change Your Trajectory (002)

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April is Financial Literacy Awareness Month

April 14, 2017

Blog 1 Thumbnail (002) MSW4.4. Equal Pay GraphicHow can we reduce the wage gap-To learn more...

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