Lessons in self-worth and control will help curb dating violence

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

PATTY SHERRY: I had a high school boyfriend who used to push me around. It began with name calling, then escalated into him grabbing me hard by the arm, pulling my hair or ripping off one of my necklaces because he’d become jealous about something. Then one day he backhanded me in the mouth — in front of my friends.

More emotionally hurt than physically, I broke up with him that day. I was angry, embarrassed, and filled with shame. Part of me even blamed myself.

Patty Sherry

I went to the police, but my parents convinced me to drop the charges. They didn’t want this “hot-tempered” young man getting a criminal record.

My parents, especially my dad, had a bit of a “boys will be boys” mentality. He told the guy to stay away from me or he would hunt him down with his gun. That was the way things were handled back then.

I went to school in North Bergen during the 70s and 80s, a time when families kept such matters private. The information highway, Facebook, Twitter — none of that existed. But dating violence did.

I’m not here to pass judgment on how we were raised. But here we are, many of us with children of our own now. How do we teach what many of us growing up did not learn?

I think it’s great that schools in New Jersey must now make anti-dating violence part of their curriculum, under a bill signed into law earlier this week. Dating abuse is considered a silent epidemic, and the only way to break the silence is to start talking. (SEE: Education about dating violence now mandatory in NJ)

I do believe, however, that we can go a step further.

Education about topics such as self-worth and dealing with one’s emotions is so important for both girls and boys. It is easy to see how lack of self-worth and an inability to deal with one’s emotions is directly related to this epidemic of dating abuse.

Having a background in advertising, I know how powerful your beliefs and emotions are.

Studies show that your beliefs and emotions are what influence you to buy that pair of jeans, that bottle of perfume, or the latest gadget. It’s reasonable to assume that one’s beliefs and emotions can also influence them toward abusing or tolerating abuse.

I say we give students a tool that they can use for life. Add a new form of education to the curriculum. Open up dialogue in schools, bring in people to talk about the topics of self-worth and dealing with emotions such as shame and anger.

For a situation such as dating abuse to change, it is the individuals who must change. Our schools can help create that change.

I’m not the girl I was back in high school. I’m in touch with my own self-worth now, and I accept and face, rather than avoid, my emotions. This is not something I learned back then, but it sure would have been nice if I had.

CLIFFVIEW PILOT is honored to welcome Patty Sherry. The North Bergen High School and Pace University grad is an inspirational speaker and consultant, as well as the creative source behind Share Your Love Story, a self-empowering web site about what is both unique and shared among us.
” Perhaps within pieces of me,  ” she says,  ” you will pick up some pieces of you, too.  ”


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