Each year my parish holds an annual “Youth Renew Retreat” for high school teens and young adults. During the course of the weekend, barriers break down as each person realizes he or she is a child of God. Everyone has an opportunity to give witness to momentous happenings in their lives. Some stories are heartbreaking; and yet healing begins here when they begin to let go of their pain and take the first step toward forgiveness.
After years of co-leading this retreat along with my sons, I elected to take a break this year from this awesome faith-filled experience. Although I regret not attending the retreat two weekends ago, real life events left me with a very similar experience when my best friend, *Sandie, filled me in on the happenings of her 17-year-old daughter.
I could hear the agony over the phone as Sandie recounted the discovery of her daughter, *Gabrielle’s, bruised eye. Knowing it was the result of an argument Gabrielle had gotten into with her boyfriend, *Jason, I can only imagine the painful blow to the heart of my best friend when she discovered her baby girl had been abused. Over the course of the next few days, Sandie struggled to maintain composure as she laid out the details of each day’s most recent events.
A couple of weeks later, I was pleasantly surprised to run into Sandie in a school gym watching her younger daughter play volleyball. We finished watching that game and then stayed to watch my daughter play. During that time, Sandie was relating the events that took place in the courtroom earlier that day as a result of her filing a restraining order on Jason.
Sandie pulled out her camera to show me the picture of Gabrielle’s face that she had shown the judge. While I expected to see a black & blue eye, I was not prepared to see how swollen and distended the lower socket of her eye was. My heart broke right then and there and I could not hold back the tears. Since I used to baby-sit Gabrielle when she was a little girl, all I could think of was her innocence—her big contagious smile and pigtails in her hair.
I wondered if Jason was proud of himself. I wondered if he knew that he hurt so many more people than just one teenage girl. I wondered if he realized that Gabrielle is not just his girlfriend but someone’s daughter, somebody’s niece, one’s granddaughter, a young girl’s older sister and mentor. She is somebody’s coworker, somebody’s friend. Does he know she is a child of God?
Please keep Gabrielle in your prayers, as well as all teenagers transitioning from childhood to adulthood. May God watch over them and guide them to make wise choices.
February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month. For more information about domestic violence and where you can go for help, visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website or the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline .
See related article: Does Domestic Violence Touch You? by Lynn Marie-Ittner Klammer
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.
Feature Photo credit: Louisa Stokes
Photographer: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot