What Are We Teaching Our Kids About Domestic Violence?

By Michael Gabel

Kerry with her three oldest sons, Ian, Michael & Jermaine

Kerry with her three oldest sons, Ian, Michael & Jermaine

I don't have kids of my own, but since the age of 16 I have worked as an after school caretaker, academic tutor, camp counselor, health instructor, English teacher, and 'manny' (man-nanny). In short, I like kids. I find their creativity and inhibition inspiring. Passing down to them my passions for art and writing gives me great fulfillment. But a recent review of She Can Fly has me wondering: Are we giving tomorrow's adults the education they truly need? 

The reviewer wrote, "I wish schools would make this a required reading for teens."

It's encouraging feedback to receive, because we set out to publish Kerry's cautionary tale with exactly that idea in mind. We wanted to expose the nuances of the psychological suffering domestic violence causes in hopes that women headed down a similarly dangerous path might be able to relate and gain insight. At the same time, we knew the story needed to be compelling so that those readers whose lives hadn't been touched by abuse wouldn't put it down. Then of course there was the issue of age. We didn't want to ostracize the younger audience. A Brooklyn high school teacher gives his thoughts on our efforts: 

"Exploration of...the inner conflict Kerry is forced to endure...all happens at a reading level accessible to both high and and low level readers. All too rarely does this combination present itself and I was immediately caught at the possibility for this book to educate and inform about a very real problem."

Unfortunately there are still several steps to take before She Can Fly can make its way onto state-approved reading lists, but I'm curious: are any stories like Kerry's being taught in schools right now? 

I graduated from high school just ten years ago and I can't remember a single mention of domestic violence - not on any syllabus, not from any teacher's mouth. So I'll repeat the question:

What are we teaching our kids about domestic violence? 

If you're a teacher, administrator, parent or advocate, I'd love to hear from you. Are we doing enough to get this information into schools? How can we do better?