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Jaslene Gonzalez shatters common myths about dating violence

Jaslene Gonzalez speaks 6th annual WINGS fashishow March 3. | JustLanier

Jaslene Gonzalez speaks at the 6th annual WINGS fashion show on March 3. | Justin Lanier

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Updated: April 16, 2013 4:53PM

Recently, I appeared on the “Nancy Grace Show.” I was so surprised when I first got the call from the show’s producers. I was asked to come on the show to talk about my personal experience as a domestic violence survivor and relate it to the Jodi Arias trial.

As we all know, Jodi says she is a victim of domestic violence, and says this was why she killed Travis Alexander. I’m not an expert, nor do I have a degree in the subject, but I have had firsthand experience with domestic violence: I was in an abusive relationship for two years. With the help of a therapist, I gained back my confidence and broke free, and for the past five years, I’ve been committed to raising awareness about dating abuse and educating teens on how to recognize and deal with abusive relationships.

After I appeared on the show, I started thinking about the common myths many people believe about domestic violence — myths that I now know to be untrue. I think these myths are dangerous, because often, they prevent teens and young adults from recognizing when they are truly in an abusive relationship.

Here, I explain the truth behind the myths, based on what I’ve learned in therapy:

Myth: Abusers are mentally ill.

Truth: Abuse is a learned behavior, not a mental illness, even though it may seem erratic and unreasonable. I believe my abuser learned this sort of behavior from the society he lived in. There were many times when he got violent with others on the street as well, and put my life in jeopardy.

Myth: Domestic violence is always impulsive and anger-based.

Truth: Domestic violence has little to do with actual anger. Anger is just a tool that abusers use to get what they want, and they often wait until there are no witnesses to subtly abuse their intimate partner. Many times, I felt powerless when my abuser was violent toward me. I knew there was no way out after he got angry. He would interrogate and yell and shove me many times to get answers from me, and all I could do was surrender.

Myth: Domestic violence is about a “loss of control.”

Truth: Violent behavior is always a choice, and domestic violence is about abusers using their control, not losing their control. Their actions are very deliberate. I used to feel sorry for my abuser, because I felt it was my fault — I’d gotten him that mad, causing him to lose control. He would only get this mad with me, and I never understood why, so I blamed it on myself. At one point, I thought that his intense attention toward me was an expression of his love.

I hope that by writing about this, I can help educate people on abuse and inspire others to seek help. If you or somebody you know is a victim of domestic violence, I encourage you to contact local nonprofit WINGS (Women In Need Growing Stronger), which provides victims with shelter, education, guidance and support. Domestic violence is a crime, and it’s never too late to live happily ever after.

Jaslene Gonzalez donated her fee for writing this column to WINGS (

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