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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Sarah Hyland provides opportunity for learning about domestic abuse

    Celebrities are rich, famous and influential. They set trends, dole out their “seals of approval” and curate personas that are larger than life. They’re also people.

    Actress Sarah Hyland, who played Haley Dunphy, the oldest sibling of the Dunphy family on the TV series “Modern Family,” has recently come out as a former victim of domestic violence/relationship abuse. Using “The Meredith Vieria Show” as a platform, Hyland discussed her recent break up with actor Matt Prokop, with whom she had been in a relationship for five years.

    According to The Hollywood Reporter, Hyland received a temporary restraining order against Prokop last month after he assaulted and threatened her, ending their five-year relationship and removing herself from the home they had shared for the last three years.

    What Hyland’s decisions demonstrate is a renewed sense of self-preservation and protection as she grows up before the American public. Her decision to leave is vitally courageous. Her decision to file a restraining order is inspiring and important. 

    However, it is Hyland’s decision to “come out” about the entire event that teaches the most important lesson — one that only she can teach.

    When Haley Dunphy first appeared on “Modern Family,” she was a 15-year-old sophomore in high school. Now, five years later, the public has watched her grow up in front of our eyes. Because of her status as a nuanced, complicated “American sweetheart,” Hyland’s decision to speak openly about her choices regarding domestic abuse is critical. Though she may not be an Everywoman, she is certainly an Every-daughter, and her experience with relationship abuse is one shared by an obscene number of women throughout the country.

    In fact, while speaking on “The Meredith Vieria Show,” host Vieria touched on her own experiences with domestic violence at a young age. She said, “I related to your story, because I was exactly your age, 23, when I went through something similar,” and later added, “I don’t talk about it a lot, but I did it because in part I wanted people to know that you’re not alone, which is important, and that you can come through adversity and be stronger on the other side. That’s possible.”

    The Oasis Program, through Campus Health Service, is a program committed to the safety and rehabilitation of UA students, faculty and staff who “are impacted by sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking.” Among other programs, it provides violence prevention services that deal with situations such as Hyland’s for university-affiliated people of all genders.

    Megan McKendry is the resident Violence Prevention Specialist for Oasis. As someone who encounters relationship violence regularly, she commented on the importance of Hyland’s bravery during this time.

    “Relationship violence can be a stigmatizing and isolating experience,” she said, “and yet thousands of people are subjected to some form of abuse by an intimate partner every year. Sarah Hyland’s decision to share her story is a powerful one. She’s helping to counteract the stigma and let survivors know they’re not alone, while also reminding the public that relationship abuse is an alarmingly common phenomenon that demands our urgent attention.”

    McKendry is spot on. Because Hyland is a popular figure in our society, her decisions not only affect her and those closest to her, but also an entire generation of young women who, unfortunately, may reach a point in which they are forced to deal with similar abuse.

    Julie Bowen, who plays Hyland’s mother on “Modern Family,” recently spoke out about helping Hyland “peacefully end the relationship.” And this is the kind of feminism we need: women helping women to improve the status of women.

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    Paul Thomson is a senior studying BFA acting and Africana Studies. Follow him on Twitter.

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