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The YouTube star is angry for her 17-year-old self.
Dodie Clark bravely uses her personal story to educate almost 400,000 subscribers about the aftereffects of abuse. This isn’t the first time a digital star has talked about relationship abuse on YouTube—and it won’t be the last.
For the musician, 2016 has been the year of real talk. In May, she came out to her audience as bisexual in one of her most popular vlogs. Soon after she confided in her subscribers about her ongoing attempts to get help for depression and anxiety. Each of these videos, though unique in subject, are working together to normalize and educate viewers by giving them a personal connection to mental health and sexuality.
Her debut EP, Interwined, hit iTunes and Spotify on Friday. She’s just finished an East Coast tour with fellow YouTube idols Jon Cozart, Tessa Violet, and Rusty Clayton. Throughout the tour, Clark continued using social media to speak out about depression as it affects her daily life experiences.
Clark has continued to use her channel for good in a clip about her experiences in a manipulative relationship. Though she’s talked about other experiences of sexual abuse, this is the first time Clark has gone in depth about her two-year abusive relationship. At the time she was 17, he was 22. The abuse started just weeks in when she didn’t put a bowl back in the exact right position. He’d get silent, she’d ask him what was wrong, he’d yell at her and make her explain her mistake, they’d have makeup sex, and then she’d retreat to cry in the bathroom. This went on for two years, making Clark’s life one of dwindling friendships and ever-changing “rules.”
She eventually ended the relationship, thankful for the friends who pulled her out, and has since go on to make music, tour, and build a thriving career online.
So when her ex-boyfriend’s name popped up on her Twitter recently, Clark was determined to do justice to the 17-year-old Dodie who was never told it was OK to not have sex. Her video is deeply vulnerable and moving.
In sharing her personal traumas, Clark is doing two things: She’s giving a face and a voice to survivors of abusive relationships. Through her hundreds of covers and vlogs showing her full life, she’s demonstrating through example that one can leave an abusive situation. It’s not always easy, especially if a partner has isolated an individual from their support network, but it can be done. Clark’s story isn’t uncommon, especially for teenagers engaging in their first proper relationships. Excessive fighting and possessiveness are often confused for signs of passion, while abuse is mislabeled as being only physical. In reality, an abusive relationship can be mental, emotional, psychological, sexual, or financial.
According to statistics, one in three adolescents will be in an abusive relationship before they graduate high school. This is often due to a lack of sexual and relationship education, vulnerability, or mixed messages in the media. In the era of youthful YouTube populism, videos such as Clark’s are even more important in creating awareness around topics of healthy relationships and violence prevention. It takes a very brave person to talk openly about their past demons, but in taking her anger and loss to YouTube, Clark is helping prevent other young fans from unknowingly entering the same situation.
Carly Lanning is a journalist who covers social media. Her work has been published by Psychology Today, NBC, Thrillist, and Ms. Magazine.