Top Model Jaslene Gonzalez is Brave <i>and</i> Beautiful

Photo: Walik Goshorn / Retna Ltd.


Why did you decide to get involved with the Liz Claiborne Love is Not Abuse Campaign?

I was definitely willing to be a part of this initiative because, I felt like I really wanted to be a role model. I wanted to use my title as a platform to branch out and inspire and empower teens. I’ve always found it as not only would it be a healing process for me but, also for others who are going through this. I can save somebody’s life by being a part of this.


How did you manage to overcome your own abusive relationship?

It’s a very difficult situation, you think you’re all alone but, in reality there are so many people like you who are going through or have gone through the same situation, maybe even worse. Don’t ever be ashamed of speaking out because once you do, people are going to help you. Not everybody’s equipped to advise you the right way but at least they’re going to try. I really feel like that’s the first and best step to take to get out of an abusive relationship, ito speak out and seek help.


Do you think that Latino culture has anything to do with the elevated rates of Teen Relationship abuse among very young Latinas?

I’ve always said that our Latino men can be very machismo and of course the two main factors of abuse are control and power. A lot of us come from humble beginnings and we don’t see how daddy was at work but mom was stuck at home cooking, washing his clothes, making sure he had a plate on the table and if these things weren’t done, it would be a problem. These women, they’re not free, they’re not able to do what they want. I really feel like our Latino men love to be very dominant and I think that issue does come into play in abusive relationships. It has a lot to do with men and their need to be dominant.


How did you manage to turn such a traumatic event like this into something positive?


The way I see life and a lot of my adversities is that I like to turn them into a positive situation. I can learn from it and others could too. A woman who’s gone through this should see this as an opportunity to help another person and save somebody else’s life. I have friends who’ve gone through this situation and I found a way to help by just lending them an ear and by going to these community services like group talks and hearing girls speak out about their devastating life experiences. Also, I feel the best way is to be a role model yourself, that makes you feel good and you gain so much confidence, pride and dignity from it. It’s a good way to live life after something like that.

How did your parents react when they realized this was happening to you? How did they help?

They knew something was wrong because they saw how much I isolated myself. A lot of relationships were sabotaged because of this man. My parents really believed in me and they knew I had a good head on my shoulders. That’s what I thank my parents for, they’ve always given me that benefit of the doubt. They’re the type of people where they let me experience my mistakes. The last thing a young woman needs at this point is for someone to sit there and blame them for what they’re doing because in all reality, they’re not the problem. The victims, they don’t deserve that. That’s why I feel it’s extremely important that healthy dating relationships lessons take place in school because that really is where we can break cycles and save lives. If they don’t have a foundation at home, who else do they have to turn to? I thank God that I have my two parents and that’s why I am who I am- because of them. It’s unfortunate that not a lot of kids have that. That’s why I’m so proud and I embrace this all the time, to be a part of this initiative because I’m all for empowering our young women.

 

Recognizing the fact that few resources existed to help teens who were experiencing dating violence, Liz Claiborne collaborated with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to initiate and fund the first national teen dating violence hotline. LoveIsRespect.org: The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline has also enabled teens and parents to have a place to go to receive immediate advice and counsel with complete privacy and confidentiality as well as learn how to tap into local resources to obtain the help they needed.

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About this author1

Mariela Rosario,

I'm a raging opinionista and I love to share my ramblings on everything from pop culture to food to stuff that makes me laugh & cry! I've worked in all types of media (TV, film, print) and was previously the online editor at Latina magazine before joining Mamás Latinas. On most nights you can find me working my way through my library of cookbooks or playing with my puppy Lola (my only child so far). I have a wonderful hubby who shares my passion for any and all kinds of travel. Together, we've formed a semi-professional wine drinking team.

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