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This Boise State journalist chooses non-anonymity in writing about intimate partner violence

A photo of an article on a computer screen.
George Prentice
"Teen Dating Violence: Reflecting on my abusive relationship as a young adult" was published by The Arbiter Feb. 4, 2022.

Content warning: This article discusses domestic violence, abuse, mental health and other related topics. Want to talk to someone? Call 800-799-SAFE (7233) or text "START" to 88788.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remind us that one in four women first experienced intimate partner violence prior to the age of 18.

In a devastating but must-read article, recently published in The Arbiter at Boise State University, Ashley Clark says she is one of the untold millions of American women who were abused as a young adult. Most importantly though, she wants those women and everyone else to know that we can choose to end that cycle of violence.

“The slow decline from a ‘happy relationship’ to toxic manipulation is rarely obvious to the victim,” wrote Clark. “Depending on the relationship, this can happen over a period of years or even weeks. The one thing that stays the same, though, is that it happens over time.”

Clark visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about her choice not to be anonymous and the response to her article.

“I truly believe I would not have suffered for as long as I did if someone around me knew the whole of what was happening to me.”

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. For our listeners: for the next several minutes, we're going to spend some time on some sensitive matters. Domestic violence… dating violence… is at the top of that list. There is a first-person account in the newspaper of record on the campus of Boise State University, and that is The Arbiter. It is devastating, and by that, I mean, it is required reading. The young woman who wrote the article joins us this morning. She is Ashley Clark. We have had the pleasure of speaking with her previously on this program because she's a fine journalist and the online editor at The Arbiter. Ashley, good morning.

ASHLEY CLARK: Good morning, George.

PRENTICE: For the record, the name of this article is, “Teen Dating Violence: Reflecting on My Abusive Relationship as a Young Adult.” Ashley, did someone convince you to write this… or was that someone you,

CLARK: You know, that's a good question. I feel like this is something I personally have been ruminating on since. I mean, for quite a few years since I was in a very horrible relationship when I was younger, I just never really had the words or a way that I thought I could frame it for other people to understand. But since that time, I've really been able to understand that others have been in similar situations, so I felt like I was finally ready to make the jump and share my story.

PRENTICE: And how unique that you are a journalist and using those particular skills because it is a must-read. And yet it is written so well. So how fascinating that you are ready and indeed you have the skills to do this.

CLARK: Thank you. Yeah, I feel like being a part of the arbiter and just in journalism at Boise state in general has really helped me to develop those skills to be able to talk about this in a way that provides a correct narrative and also gives people some tools and resources to look beyond just my story.

PRENTICE: Your particular story begins when you were 13. He was friends with your friends… and it sure does sound familiar.  But it would be five years of what?

CLARK: The best way for me to generalize it would just to say toxic behavior and general abuse. When I was younger around that 13- to 14-year-old age, it started off with really small things like monitoring who I'm friends with, who I'm texting, what I'm doing on social media apps. And five years down the road, it got to the point where I he didn't want me to talk to any other men. He didn't want me to be in any location that he was not familiar with. And a lot of physical altercations that would occur between the two of us in public and behind the privacy of closed doors.

PRENTICE: I'm going to ask you to share some of this with our listeners. It's near the end of your article. Could you read something that you wrote? It begins with the words, “I hate to be the one dreaming of the what-ifs….” Could you read us that?

CLARK: Yeah, of course.

“I hate to be the one dreaming of the what-ifs, but I truly believe I would not have suffered for as long as I did if someone around me knew the whole of what was happening to me. Talk to your kids, family, friends, et cetera, about these issues and teach your children to recognize warning signs of manipulation and demonstrate healthy relationships.”

PRENTICE: Can you share with me some of the reactions that you've had and some of the conversations you've had in the past few days because I'm guessing this is a conversation starter?

CLARK: Yeah, definitely. It's a very unique experience, I think, because a lot of my peers when I was in high school were somewhat familiar with what was happening. They definitely did not know the extent of what was going on, but I've had several of them reach out to me who I have had, you know, little to no contact with over the last few years and just very be very affirming to me and say, like, I didn't know that this is happening to you. I'm so sorry, I wish I would have known. I've also had other close friends of mine reach out, who are also survivors and talk about how, like you said, familiar. This pattern in this story is and just say that they're very thankful that someone is talking about it because I think especially women who go through this. It's a very shameful process, and a lot of people are taught to just sweep it under the rug when that is not how we should be handling these situations.

PRENTICE: To that end, we all look through our own lens, right? And while yes, abusers come in all shapes and sizes, men and women, I see this as a man and an opportunity for men, young men, old men, all men… to call out other men when they are jerks at best and, more often than not, exhibit behavior and actions that are criminal. And here's an opportunity on campus, in the workplace, in life… for men to call out other men.

CLARK: I think that that is one of those things that once you start recognizing the small aspects of it, you realize that there could be something larger, a lot of offhanded comments or just kind of toxic behavior. You know, we talk about that toxic masculinity, which I think is very prevalent, especially among younger boys in high school, just to start calling that out and just talk about it more openly and talk about other ways to address those situations and just emulate healthy behavior and healthy relationships.

PRENTICE: Could you talk to me about the very - I'm going to guess – the very difficult decision to not be anonymous?

CLARK: Yeah, I went back and forth on that for actually a couple of months before publishing this. I originally was just going to be anonymous and just call it a day and say, You know, my story is out there. People have heard it. That's it. But I think that is also too familiar of a trope in these situations and also gives a lot of people an excuse to not put a face to the story. And oftentimes, when we don't have that face, there's not as much of a connection. And I think I especially wanted to be able to represent not just myself, but plenty of very, very close friends of mine who aren't able to share their story in the same way that I'm sharing mine. And so, I wanted to be able to really make that connection and show people who haven't been in these types of situations that it can be someone so close to you and, you know, just around the corner and your office in your classroom, and you could have no idea.

PRENTICE:  February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month… and to your point, we could just start a general conversation and be stunned. That's someone that we think we know very, very well. We'd like to talk or just wants to know that someone is on his or her side.

CLARK: Mm hmm. Yeah, very much.

PRENTICE: Ashley, let's talk shop. What's the big dream?

CLARK: I am really wanting to get out into the media world after graduation. I am so happy to have had my experience in journalism, but I do think I want to take it a little bit farther and be more into some creative fields and do some media work. I've been loving my production classes at Boise State, so I think I'm going to pursue something in the digital production realm.

PRENTICE: She is Ashley Clark and look out world. A fine journalist and storyteller. And I'm assuming producer of all things that are good. Ashley, thank you so very much for giving us some time this morning.

CLARK: Thank you so much, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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