Thursday, November 17, 2011

Not Trying To Ruin It For You. Buuutttttt........

If I were not a victim advocate who truly believes there are far too many victims out there, I am not sure I would have been so upset with the Twilight Saga as I found myself to be.

I am writing this post as a victim advocate, and also as a parent. Sadly, my job has tainted the way I see my surroundings. I see things differently, and on some days there is a lot of things that scare me when raising my own child. I think this can be said for anyone in any career, but because of my job, I see victims everywhere. And I want you to see them too. I want you to see that the forms of media put in front of us cater to our need for violence. I want you to see that forms of media put in front of us normalize or glamorize violence. And I want you to see that forms of media put in front of us cause us to be blind to violence.

I read the Twilight series mostly because I love reading books in a series, and I love getting lost in a story. It was a perfect series for that. I enjoyed it.

The series is about young teens in a small coastal town. One is a “normal” teen-age girl, Bella, who has normal teen struggles. One is a “teen” male, Edward, who is a vampire. His actual age is over 100 years old. Gross. He is not a traditional vampire that I grew up reading about. He does not die in sun-light, he is written to be gorgeous, and he appears to have no faults what-so-ever. The other is a Native American, Jacob, who comes from a line of werewolves. He seems traditional and in the beginning of the series, would be the one I would say was the most accurate portrayal of a teen. Looooong story short: Bella’s like for Edward turns into love. So much so, she would die for him. Jacob loves Bella, Edward says back off. In the end, Edward wins.

I remember reading the first book on a plane to Switzerland for a visit. I remember setting it down on my teeny food tray and thinking…’something is not right here.’ Then I bought the second book in an English book store in Zurich. Yes, something was definitely not right while reading that book. And it got worse.

I kept reading and finished the series. I shared my disgust with my mother and husband. I was glad they agreed with me.

My husband recently told me he cant watch the movies now without thinking of the issues I have brought up surrounding the series. Music to my ears. That prompted me to talk about those issues in schools, with friends and at social events. Where ever I could so that I could keep spreading the word about the issue:


Because this book is FULL-FULL-FULL-FULL of it.

When professionals talk about partner

violence they are very careful to articulate what that means. They always mention that violence is carried out for 2 reasons and those reasons are power and control. Emotional, verbal, physical and sexual abuse in a relationship always has elements of power and control and those 2 things are what drives an abuser. That is all they care about. To keep that power and control over a victim, they have a plethora of tactics that they use. Instead of being taught about abstinence in schools we should have been learning about the power and control wheel. That way, we would be aware of those tactics abusers use and be on the look-out for those red-flags.

The tactics are things like:

- Isolating the victim by keeping him/her from friends and family
-Using economic abuse such as not letting a victim work, buying them things they need or want or controlling all the finances

- Using threats such as fear for their life, their family member’s life or threatening to break-up with a victim should the abuser not get his/her way

Plus many more.

I don’t think one has to be a victim advocate to notice the alarming things Edward does in the books to keep his control over Bella. And I could go on and on about each incident, but who wants to read that?!

Lets just talk about a few that occur over the whole series. Again, my goal is not to make you hate the series, but be more aware of what we are reading and better yet, what our young people are reading. These are the forms of media that shapes their little minds. Teaches them what is normal, teaches them how to behave. Because as a mom, I know I do not raise my child alone. Even though I try, even though I want to be the only one.

Edward does not want Bella to hang with her friends, mostly Jacob. I think small doses of jealousy are normal, I think it is natural to feel intimidated if you partner wants to hang with a member of the opposite sex. But that does not make it okay to order our partner to stop seeing a certain friend, or threaten them if they do. Even if Edward is saying it is for Bella’s own good, it does not give him the right to make choices for her. She gets to decide. Now, of course she is going to decide what Edward wants because she is a victim, who struggles with pleasing her abuser. Not making him mad, worried about what he will do to her or Jacob. Edward controls her choices. (jealousy, isolation)

Oh and lets not forget the fact that he never leaves her alone. He always knows what she is doing – even in her sleep. He comes through her window, he leers outside her house, and he follows her when she is out. On the surface, some romantics might think this is flattering – he likes her – he is protecting her. But I know better. He is stalking her. On occasion, Bella even voiced her protest to these actions. She wanted the following to stop, the leering to stop, but he never did. (stalking)

There is one incident I can think of where Edward was physical. He grabbed Bella by the back of the coat or back-pack and would not let her go. He dragged her back to his car and ordered to get in. Think about that for a second. Is that how you want your daughter’s boyfriend to treat her? Is that the kind of behavior you want your daughter to think is acceptable from a partner? I think this was another time where Edward was insisting it was for her safety. This was at the same time where Bella was thinking to herself how quickly she could get away from him if she had to, and he said if she ran, he would drag her back. Lovely. (physical violence, threats)

Edward always has a way of intimidating Bella. Every action she makes, she wonders what Edward’s response will be. She even resorts to sneaking behind his back so as not to make him mad. This does NOT make her the manipulator, it makes the survivor. She is a victim of an abusive relationship and sometimes until there is a way out, victims do small things to survive, or live the lives they choose. (intimidation)

I also feel like I must mention the physical violence during sex. Now, I know he is a blood thirsty vampire, yadda yadda. The problem I have with those scenarios is that we already live in a sex driven world where young girls are pressured to believe sex is rough, hot, dominating, and male driven. He leaves marks on her, beats her and could have even killed her. But it is all okay in their world because of his excuses, his own false shame. She feels sorry for HIM. Our ladies need to know that sex can be sensual and wonderful and it shouldn’t be harmful and scary.

Just those few scenarios above helped me make up my mind -this book was glamorizing, excusing and normalizing violence. I am not saying that it was done intentionally by the author, but Edward is an abuser and Bella is a victim.

I was worried about all the young female teens reading this book, swooning over Edward and his “love” for Bella. I was worried they would want a love like that. I was worried they would settle for a love like that. My worries became real when I was talking with young teens in 8th grade. They giggle when I suggest they might someday be in an abusive relationship or know someone who is. They think getting flowers from a boy wouldn’t be the worst thing, even if they were unwanted. They fail to see the patters and red flags of violence. They want a love like Edward’s and they have no idea the danger that could put them in.

Through my work, I was able to teach these young girls about red flags. They were able to see the danger. Then I sprang it on them: “Do you know anyone from a book or movie who may exhibit some of these signs or red flags?”

No hands went flying up in the air.

I suggested Edward from the Twilight Saga. Eyes bulged and the shock settled. The light-bulbs went on and there was no denying what they thought. They just realized the sweet boy they wanted to be happy with Bella forever was an abuser. Hands flew in the air and girls yelled out, “oh wow HE IS abusive.” They started shouting out examples of the tactics Edward used to keep Bella under his control.

Like I said before, I enjoy this series. But I know the difference between what is real and what is not. I know what is healthy and what is not.

Go see the movie, read the books and enjoy them. But I hope you will always remember that Rhonda thinks Edward is an abuser, and Bella is a victim. Even if you think of it just for a second, I will be pleased.

Violence is in our faces. We need to start seeing it for what it is. Not glamor, not love, not normal, but dangerous.


Katie Golden-Rapp said...

Wow Rhonda, I finally had a minute to read this and you nailed it! I read the Twilight series and have seen the movies and while I enjoyed and got sucked in to the story I always felt like something was wrong with it and you got it! Your post is very well written and I couldn't agree more!

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