Updated: Feb 27, 2022
Behind the Scenes with Malachai Hanney
Meet Malachai. An extraordinary young man who is a lighthouse of optimism. At NDVC, his strategic and innovative thinking is a catalyst for change as a Youth voice on our Task Force. He’s an aspiring manga artist and advocate for restoration, who influences people to listen every time he speaks.
We traveled behind the scenes with Malachai to gain powerful insight into his and many other teens' perspectives on teen dating violence, the impacts of positive parenting and more.
1. Obviously, I know how old you are but the rest of the world doesn’t.
I’m 16 and I’m in 10th grade.
2. What made you want to become a teen advocate?
Well because our family was directly impacted by domestic violence I’ve been around the movement pretty much my whole life. Other than that, in 8th grade I was part of a school district that had educators from the local dv shelter come in and educate the 8th graders on teen dating violence. After participating in that workshop I knew there was a need for more teen insight because they taught the basics but not much else.
3. What did they teach you? Did they share a text hotline or anything?
They taught us what teen dating violence is, what some warning signs are and they shared some resources if someone was in need. They just shared local resources and how to report it at school and not be a bystander.
There’s a national hotline that teens can text to chat with an advocate. Text the word 'LOVEIS' to 22522 or you can visit their website.
4. How would you describe teen dating violence?
When one person is taking advantage of or controlling another person emotionally, verbally, physically, or sexually and they’ve been in a past or are in a current romantic relationship. It’s also harassment and/or stalking someone if they’ve been in or are in a romantic relationship.
5. Have you ever witnessed teens in unhealthy or toxic relationships?
Maybe not super toxic but I witnessed one relationship where the guy in the relationship would make comments pretty often about other girls that he saw. It made her uncomfortable and it caused insecurity in the relationship. The girl confided in me so I encouraged her to talk with him about it. They communicated about it but the guy continued to do it so she broke it off with him.
6. Did you know only ⅓ of the teens who were involved in an abusive relationship confided in someone about the violence?
7. Why do you think some teens keep it a secret?
I think teens are uncomfortable to share with people that they’re in an unhealthy relationship in general because of the shame around it. I think they’re more afraid to share with people in a position of authority because they fear getting in trouble or facing some type of consequences.
8. What do you think teens need to learn but aren’t?
I think teen programs are great at teaching “the what” but teens need to understand the reasoning behind why things happen or why it’s not okay. Let me think of a scenario to give you an example. Okay, so let’s say two people are dating. One person is attached to the relationship so tightly that they develop a co-dependency or “relationship addiction” that then causes them to lose self-confidence, begin feeling depressed or unproductive.
They can be so co-dependent that they have a hard time letting go of or leaving the relationship even if it’s unhealthy because they become afraid to be without them or on the other end of the spectrum they may feel afraid to leave the person who is co-dependent. This isn’t okay because when we lack independence and the ability to function on our own it can lead to poor decision making, unhealthy relationships or even worse situations like thoughts of suicide.
9. Malachai we’re so honored to have you serve on our National Task Force to offer the teen and male perspective. What’s it like serving with adults on the task force?
It’s really exciting to be involved in those conversations and to have influence at a higher level. I feel like teens need to be given more opportunities to participate in something like this that obviously involves us because it changes the way you approach creating or designing things for that specific group. I also think it’s important for teens to give back to our world. I’ve served in smaller ways and it feels great to serve in an area that I feel comfortable in and in the movement I’ve been around my whole life.
10. Clearly you’re working on the campaign with the Task Force. What’s the campaign about?
Well we don’t have an official name yet but we’re zoning in on shifting the narrative around domestic violence.
11. What do you hope to see happen with the campaign?
I would hope to see it reach a wide audience early on. I also hope to see people gain a new perspective because I feel like we’ve been stuck in the victim vs. villain narrative for a long time and I believe we could reduce the number of people being impacted if we sought to understand more and reached towards both sides instead of simply locking someone away and hoping that’s enough to make them change.
12. If you could do anything really cool to raise awareness on healthy relationships what would you do?
Well I’m an artist so I would like to create an art piece that would illustrate healthy relationships in a way that reaches a wider audience. Art is universal and crosses all boundaries like music.
13. Is there anything else you want to share that we didn’t cover?
I feel like parents have a big responsibility to teach their children about healthy relationships and model healthy behavior because this is where we learn about healthy relationships first and it can have a long term impact on us. And when parents separate, I feel like they still need to model healthy behavior and not force a child to choose sides unless it’s critically dangerous and they have to go into hiding.
14. Last Question. You recently decided to become a teen speaker and educate others from an incredibly diverse perspective. What do you hope people will take away from what you share?
I want people to know that kids are watching even when you think we aren’t and that parents really have to set a good example for us. I want people to know that even if your family goes through domestic violence like mine did, that we can get to a place of accepting that it happened and heal from it.
P.S. If you or someone you know are looking to escape abuse please visit domesticshelters.org to search for a local shelter near your zip code location.
Love and Light,
Audrey May Prosper