Examples of Physical Abuse in Pop Culture

One Tree Hill (TV Series)
Characters: Peyton, Lucas & Derek

“He grabs my wrists. I try to pull them back and he squeezes so tight it feels like my bones are splintering. He pins me against the closed door. – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

“He curses and turns, his fist coming, coming. An explosion in my head and blood in my mouth. He hit me. I scream, scream. – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


(Start video at 2:08 for best results)

The attack scene from One Tree Hill, while extremely over-dramatized, is an example of physical abuse. Like in Speak, Derek throws Peyton up against a door. He grabs her. He squeezes her. He assaults her. The screaming in both the novel and episode is a symbol of perceived helplessness. Neither Peyton nor Melinda know how to escape the situation or how to save themselves from these seemingly more powerful, at least stronger men.

This clip also shows the difference between abuse and self defense. Derek’s actions toward Peyton is abuse. She did not initiate the behavior, or provoke Derek into this attack. Therefore it is abuse. Even if Derek thought Peyton was baiting him (he had watched her webcast for months before stalking her and ultimately committing this abuse), she was not. Similarly to sexual assault, Peyton was not “asking for it” just by hosting a live webcam stream. Lucas’ attack on Derek however was self defense as well as actions in defense of Peyton. Derek attacked both Lucas and Peyton and Lucas’ violent reaction was provoked by Derek’s attack. In Speak we also seen an instance where Melinda reacts in self defense, hitting Andy Evans after finally realizing she could fight him back. This shows that while both acts are violent, the line between self defense and abuse is very clear. This is important in adolescent peer social worlds because when young adults are still learning right and wrong, they have to be able to understand the difference between protecting themselves or their family and friends, and attacking others. It is also helpful that young adults know what an attack is, or what it might look like, in case they are ever in such a compromising situation.

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