Having “The (Other) Talk” With My Daughter

So I was sitting around listening to the podcast of a sports radio show out of Miami, and the conversation turned to how the Miami Heat fans cheered Chris Brown when his image was displayed on the jumbo-tron. The show’s host, Dan Le Batard, mentioned how he recoiled in disgust at the crowd’s reaction given the details of the police report filed following Brown’s physical abuse of Rihanna.

The conversation then went into the direction of, “If Rihanna can forgive Chris Brown, then who are we to judge?”

And that’s where my head exploded.

There are two components to domestic abuse; those who abuse and those who enable the abuse. Rihanna’s decision to forgive Chris Brown is her prerogative, and when looked at with greater and deeper perspective, it’s also the Christian thing to do. What I find appalling, however, and – well, unforgivable – is that she’s not using this experience, and the media frenzy surrounding it, to speak out visibly and publicly about domestic violence. Rather, when looked at through the prism of Rihanna as a public figure, her inaction serves, in my opinion, as implied tolerance for men who beat their girlfriends or wives.

I was driving my daughter to soccer practice recently, and a popular song I didn’t recognize came on the radio. I inquired out loud who sings the song (because the voice sounded familiar).

“That’s Pitbull with Chris Brown.”

“Chris Brown?”

“Yeah.”

“You know he beat up Rihanna, right?”

“Yeah, but they’re back together now. They’re doing a song together.”

I gave my daughter ‘the dad look’ as I asked her, “And what does that say about Rihanna?”

I don’t know if there’s a right way to approach your pre-teen daughter about the subject of domestic abuse, but I felt that was the moment for me. We talked about how serious an issue it is, and how there’s never an excuse for a man to put his hands on a woman.

I went on to tell her there are only three acceptable outcomes to a scenario – God forbid – where she’s the victim of domestic violence.

“You either A) pack your bags and get out, B) you throw his ass out (and subsequently throw out his stuff, change the locks, the whole nine yards), or C) make sure he ends up in the hospital.”

That’s it. No excuses. No trying to understand or justify why it happened. None of that garbage. The imperative I gave my daughter that afternoon is that the first time a guy puts his hands on her, it will be the absolute last time he ever puts his hands on her.

Maybe I’m being a stereotypical, over-protective dad. Maybe I could have couched the conversation a little better. Maybe I should have consulted with her mom (and step-mom) first. Still, I’ve seen firsthand the affects domestic violence, when left unchecked, can have on a family. My wife’s cousin Dee is no longer with us because of it. She was only twenty. I believe her tragic death, like most suffered at the hand of domestic abuse, could have been avoided.

So, no, I don’t think it’s too soon to talk to my daughter about this topic. The sooner I can get her to understand these types of realities, the more prepared she’ll be to face them should it ever come to that. My daughter will be going to college in five and half years, and it’s stories like those of Dee Curry, Yeardley Love, and this one that scare me to death.

I don’t think there’s one right answer or a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing these topics with our kids. I guess the important thing is that we make an attempt to address them.

After all, I’d much rather deal with my daughter being uncomfortable with me for several minutes than with my daughter being a statistic.

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9 thoughts on “Having “The (Other) Talk” With My Daughter

  1. Congratulations – letting your daughter (or son, for that matter) know that this behavior is completely unacceptable is a great message to share. And way past due, as well.

  2. – And then I pushed the wrong button and my whole reply was gone argh. Again… –

    You were right to have that talk with your daughter, Gil! Giving her the three possible scenarios. Any other is out of the question. Violence is only allowed to protect loved ones!

    When celebrities broadcast the message that violence is ‘acceptable’ without a thorough explanation, that is BAD for our youngsters. They might think it’s normal, if only you forgive the act. NO!

    I was assaulted by an ex-boyfriend years back. I had ended the relationship a couple of months before that, because of unacceptable behavior. And then he gained entrance to my apartment. In total panic I called a friend, who rushed in to pick me up immediately. We went to the police and it lead to a law suit. And lead me to a self-defense course. After which I started karate.

    I vowed I would never feel that scared and helpless again. Ever!

    1. Marion,

      What an horrific story, and I am so sorry to hear you had to go through that. I am glad, however, that you were okay and you did no tolerate that type of behavior. I pray no woman ever has to deal with such a scenario, but if they do, I also pray they’re prepared to deal with it and protect themselves.

      Thank you for the comments and the continued support.

  3. Once again, Gil, I find myself in complete agreement with you, flavored with a feeling of camaraderie as a fellow dad of daughters. I’ve told my daughters, in no uncertain terms, that it is NEVER ok for anyone to hurt them in any way. My oldest daughter asked me once what I’d do if some boy ever hurt her and I told her I’d make sure that no one would ever find the body. My middle daughter once asked me, after seeing a TV show where a dad was cleaning guns while talking to his daughters boyfriend if I would ever do the same thing. I told her that no, I’d only bring a tape measure. She asked me “What would a tape measure do?” I told her it would be so I would know how big of a hole to dig 🙂

    Now, they understood that I was being somewhat (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek, but they got the message that no one better ever hurt my daughters, and that they don’t ever need to ever let anyone hurt them.

    I think you done good, sir!

    1. Thank you, Bill. I think it’s somewhat of an art to be able to address the topic but do so in an easier, light-hearted manner. It gets the message across but eases some of the scary.

      Thank you for the comments, and yes, we do share the daddy camaraderie.

      BTW, don’t be surprised if you get a new shovel for Christmas.

  4. Gil, it’s never too early to have the conversation that people don’t get to act in violent ways towards you. My daughters and I have had similar conversations based on lyrics from songs on the radio. Sadly, violence is part of our culture and as parents we need to keep reinforcing that it’s not okay, it’s not normal and there are zero instances where it should be tolerated. I had a couple of relationships in my past that suddenly became aggressive (thankfully never to the level of major physical harm) and I am grateful that my parents instilled in me the courage of conviction to immediately end those relationships and walk away without ever looking back. Good for you for speaking to your daughter with such honesty.

    1. Thank you for the feedback, Regina. As a dad, this all feels like uncharted territory, but it is reassuring to have received such positive feedback from everyone. I think it’s great your parents took the time to talk to you about what is and is not acceptable in relationships.

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