Lesson 1: Domestic Violence

There have been times I’ve discussed teaching on the blog.  I’ve been deliberately vague – because I was still teaching. 


I talked about How I Told My Students about Alexander the first year back… And how I told them the Second Time.  I blogged about how My Students Saved Me from drowning in Special Needs, and I blogged my farewell Letters to my Students.  I even blogged my frustration for Students who Didn’t Graduate, but I have never posted a lesson on – line.  *Well.. I have some lessons on the internet – but not here *


And… some of them – I am really proud of.  Would you like to know what it is really like in my classroom?  How about I show you one of the most controversial lessons I’ve ever taught?  And, how it changed my life and the life of my kids.


It involves an Eminem Video, Domestic Violence, and a hard look at the relationships between people in those situations.


So … here goes. I taught Sociology.  It is the science of Societies.  But, I really taught it as “Sociological Lessons.”


** Preface:  I used to have students find a song on the radio that deals with something they learned in class.  Since there are a TON of songs that deal with problems or issues in society – this is a super easy assignment. **

For their song, they had to: Name the Song / Artist of the Song / What the song seemed like it was about at first glance / And then – What the song was Really About.


Example:  Fast Car by Tracy Chapman.  At first glance, it seems like a person wants a “fast car.”  When you listen closer, you realize the song is about escaping the circumstances of her life… especially poverty.


This lesson has been a fun one for my students – until the year “Love the Way you Lie” came out.  For those of you who don’t know – it was a duet by Eminem and Rihanna.  I had 5 girls pick it – it is about domestic violence.  image


Here was the problem… 4 of those 5 girls said:


It was really about how much those two people loved each other and they would rather die than be apart.


This. Is. Not. What. That. Song. Is. About.


You can watch the video below.  Warning: Grandma – there are a lot of cuss words in it.



Now I was faced with a dilemma… What was I going to do about this?  How would I handle the fact that these girls thought this song was about true love?  I felt (and still do) I had a moral responsibility to discuss this.


1.  I showed the video in class.  Complete with cuss words.  It was important.  **I offered to let students go to the library if they thought they were going to be offended.**


2.  I put the lyrics on the board.  You can view them below.


3.  We read it like poetry.  I actually read it aloud to them, with pauses and rephrasing – so the song came out like a conversation instead of hate words.


4.  Would you like to know what the song is really about? 


In the song, Rihanna says, “I love the way you lie.”  You never really understand that until the end, when Eminem says, “Even though I know its lies” – about his promise never to hurt her again.


Point?  Sometimes the sweetest words exchanged between 2 people happen after an argument.  When the heat has died down and the apologies happen.  In normal relationships – the heat is .. just – an argument.  But after, we say, “I love you.”  “I’m sorry.”  “I’ll never do that again.”  Rihanna knows those words are lies, but she also loves hearing the sweet things.  This is why many people stay in abusive relationships… they want to believe those sweet words.  They love those sweet words… even when they know they are lies.


I’m proud of this lesson.  Yes, cuss words were shown in a video.  But – people don’t really understand the dynamics of domestic violence.  Some statistics have the ratio of 1:3 women will be victims of violence… that number is too high.  If they recognize what is happening – maybe they won’t be a victim.


**One more thing… My students loved this lesson.  I’m not bragging.  Even a student that I know wants to be a minister when he grows up stayed for it.  We had a long conversation about how meaningful it was to understand domestic violence.  I’ve had conversation after conversation with students about this lesson… It did make a difference for them. **


And – that folks… was a day in my classroom.


Love The Way You Lie Lyrics: Eminem ft Rihanna –

(The words Bolded in Parentheses are my thoughts.)

[Chorus - Rihanna]
Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
that’s alright because I like the way it hurts
just gonna stand there and hear me cry
that’s alright because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie

[Eminem - Verse 1]
I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
and right now it’s a steel knife in my windpipe (Painful)
I can’t breathe but I still fight while I can fight
as long as the wrong feels right it’s like I’m in flight
high off of love drunk from my hate (He’s high..euphoria)
it’s like I’m huffin’ paint and I love it the more I suffer, I suffocate
and right before I’m about to drown, she resuscitates me, (She saves him)

she f*&*n’ hates me and I love it (He knows she hates him, but she loves him enough to save him)

(Conversation starts here: He says:)

“ wait, where you goin’?”

(She says)
”I’m leavin’ you,”

(He says)

“ no you ain’t come back”

we’re runnin’ right back, here we go again
its so insane, cause when it’s goin’ good its goin’ great
I’m superman with the wind in his back, she’s Lois Lane (Who is Superman? Who is his true love?)
but when its bad its awful, I feel so ashamed

I snap – “whose that dude?”

“ I don’t even know his name”

I laid hands on her
I never stoop so low again
I guess I don’t know my own strength (Here – he is promising to never hurt her again.)


[Eminem - Verse 2]
you ever love somebody so much you can barely breathe?
when your with em you meet and neither one of you even know what hit em
got that warm fuzzy feeling (He’s describing that first love feeling)
yeah them chills used to get em
now you’re getting f*&*n’ sick of lookin’ at em
you swore you’d never hit em, never do nothin’ to hurt em
now you’re in each other’s face spewin’ venom in your words when you spit em
you push pull each other’s hair
scratch, claw, hit em throw em down pin em
so lost in the moments when you’re in em
it’s the face that’s the culprit, controls you both
so they say it’s best to go your separate ways (In abusive relationships.. Friends will tell you that you should leave)
guess that they don’t know ya
cause today that was yesterday
yesterday is over, it’s a different day (He is offering a chance to start over)
sound like broken records playin’ over
but you promised her next time you’ll show restraint
you don’t get another chance (She is trying to leave here – )
life is no Nintendo game, but you lied again
now you get to watch her leave out the window
guess that’s why they call it window pane


[Eminem - Verse 3]
(He is calm here… reasoning)

now I know we said things, did things, that we didn’t mean
and we fall back into the same patterns, same routine
(He tells her they are the same.. implying they belong together.)

but your temper’s just as bad as mine is, you’re the same as me

when it comes to love you’re just as blinded

(Pay Attention. This is the key. Here – he pleads with her. He says the sweetest words to her. Listen to the desperation in his voice. It almost sounds like love.)
baby please come back, it wasn’t you, baby it was me
maybe our relationship isn’t as crazy as it seems
maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano
all I know is I love you too much to walk away though
come inside, pick up the bags off the sidewalk
don’t you hear sincerity in my voice when I talk?

(Again… he seems sincere. He is begging… “Look me in the eyes.”)
Told you this is my fault, look me in the eyeball
next time I’m pissed I’ll lay my fist at the drywall
next time there won’t be no next time
I apologize even though I know its lies
I’m tired of the games I just want her back
I know I’m a liar if she ever tries to f*&*n’ leave again
I’m a tie her to the bed and set this house on fire

(He says: “I apologize – even though I know its lies.” … And she stays because – She loves the way he lies. Sometimes the sweetest words exchanged between people happen after an argument. She loves those words. She believes, even though she knows he is lying – because she loves those sweet words.)



  1. Wow. I have never heard this song…probably due to not particularly caring for Eminem. As I read the lyrics, I had flashbacks to middle school. My step-dad was abusive to my mom, primarily. I can remember this cycle happening plenty of times. Thankfully, she’s out of it now. This post was definitely needed. Domestic violence is a phenomenon that isn’t given enough attention. Awareness is key. Thank you for posting.

    • Kristen says:

      Amy… thanks so much for supporting this. I didn’t know about your family situation – but I was especially aware that this post might hit home for some people… and I worried. Thanks.

  2. HouseTalkN says:

    NOW THIS IS TEACHING! Teachers have the platform to be able to host these kinds of discussions and “lessons” that parents aren’t able to have.
    Kudos to you for taking the time to really help your students turn a critical eye to what they are being sold.

    • Kristen says:

      Girl – you are becoming one of my newest BFF’s. The truth is: I would really have a hard time doing this “lesson” with Addison. I mean…I can picture it now. Her yelling, “MOM!” because we were listening to cuss words together. And talking about getting yourself into a situation you can’t get out of. You know what I thought on my last day? I had a student confide in me something that needed to go to guidance right away. So we went. To guidance – right away. And I popped my head in about a half hour later just to make sure everyone was ok… but I thought – will those students tell another teacher? Please? (Not that our school isn’t filled with great caring teachers) – but what about those ones I made connections with?

  3. Kristen says:

    I guess I must be a different parent than what you thought would read this because I would be thrilled to have you as both of my daughters’ teacher. I know this song well and I went over it with my girls and what it meant. You can never teach a child too early about domestic violence in my opinion.

    • Kristen says:

      Kristen – move closer and I will teach your daughters. I can’t believe you went over it with them – you are amazing. completely amazing!

  4. Kristen Daukas says:

    Wow!! I would love if my girls had a teacher with enough passion and caring to take that same approach. For the record, I knew what that song was about and HATED it for that reason. Kids relate to these songs and not gor the reason we want them to. It kills me that these artists (term used loosely) put this crap out and don’t think of the ramifications. Kudos to you for teaching that and for posting it.

    • Kristen says:

      Thank you so much. Really. There are songs out there, and if you don’t really look at the words – you can think the meaning is totally different than what it really is. I’m so glad I posted it.

  5. Laura G says:

    You showed your students that you respect them enough to talk straight with them. Well done! I agree with Kristen about Eminem and other artists who put out similar work. The fact is, though, there will always be music and media and real life situations that are deeply ugly. We can either shelter our kids from them or give them the tools to process and cope and make good decisions for themselves. Your students are fortunate that you have helped them along that path.

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks for the encouragement. I really needed to open up the blog and read these great words. I was worried I would be crucified!

  6. Tricia says:

    Wow! This is awesome and you must have been a fabulous teacher. Great post.

    • Kristen says:

      Thank you. I seriously didn’t sleep the night before I posted this because I was so nervous. So nervous. I posted on your bedtime battles post… and wish you good luck!

  7. In “another life” I was a youth pastor and a children’s paster combined for 10 years, and I am a HUGE fan of using what speaks to them to teach them lessons about life — the good, the bad, the ugly. I think they “hear’ it more in that genre.

    THIS is brilliant!

    Thank you for sharing this part of yourself, your life with us. I understand how you miss it…them. I do too. Even when it was “right” to switch gears for various life reasons.


    • Kristen says:

      OK. A former pastor said it was good! I’m set!! (And I’m not being sarcastic!) ~ I worry… by sharing what I really think … will it make me “un-hirable” someday. Or make my bosses say – “we don’t want her back.” if I decide to go back… Know what I mean?

      • I do understand. And the reality is…some people will get it and some people will not.

        I think that there is a time and place for different types of learning, and in this situation, it was totally relevant because the kids were bringing it to the table as something to praise…so you had NO CHOICE but to help them understand not only what real love is but what real love IS NOT.

        I think THAT is your guide — using every opportunity to each kids and/or teenagers not only “the curriculum” laid out for you, but life lessons. Some….in fact…many don’t have anybody telling them these things. So in fact in your situation, you might even say it would have been wrong to do nothing. It was probably a lesson that they all remember, even those that understood the meaning ahead of time, maybe eye opening to what their fellow classmates are experiencing.

  8. Helene says:

    We need more teachers like you, Kristen! Teachers who truly care and want their students to fully understand the world and how it works.

    I honestly had never listened to the words of that song and I never saw the video before now. What you taught those students was very powerful and probably a lesson they’ll never forget.

    • Kristen says:

      Helene – thanks. Thanks so much. It is just so RAW… but – OMG – what if it is one of my students someday? I can’t just deny that it happens. I can’t just turn a blind eye.. so I did the only think I knew how – to “teach” them the dynamics of an abusive relationship. I’ve had a lot of former students send me personal messages telling me this was one of their favorite lessons because they learned so much from it. And that makes all the difference.

  9. Charlie says:

    Great post! It is a lesson that needs to be taught. I’m glad there are teachers like you who can do that.

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks Charlie. I really appreciate it. I struggled with how to teach it – but once I did.. I felt very convicted that it was so valuable for them to learn. Especially when you look at the statistics on violence against women.

  10. Wow, that sounds like it was a fantastic class. Teaching should always be allowed to be that open and honest. I find myself really censoring what I say to my students sometimes, in the name of what is “appropriate.” I wish I had the guts to be more honest. Our kids need that!

    • Kristen says:

      Karen, I used to censor myself a lot more… but more and more I find that high school students really just want you to talk “strait” to them. When it is something that is none of their business, I just say so… and if it is a “government.. ah – I mean – school secret” I tell them to ask a custodian… because they know more than me. Otherwise, if it is a teachable moment, I really feel helping them to understand the world is important.

      • I had a high school history teacher who was always willing to give us the straight scoop, and you are right about that age group wanting that type of interaction. I teach 5th and 6th graders, and I am really starting to see that same type of desire with my 6th grade classes. When we talk current events (I teach social studies), they don’t want to avoid the tough articles. They want to be able to express themselves and to hear more. Since current events are part of state standards, I’ve just started opening up and allowing the discussions. Wow, what a difference it has made in the connections I’ve made with my students!

  11. Heather says:

    How did I not know you were a Sociology teacher? Love it! I have a degree in Sociology.

    I know this song well. I know the blow back from Eminem when he came out was his controversial nature. If anyone has read an interview about Eminem, they would understand that he sings/raps about this things to bring them to light. Children will be exposed to these things whether we as parents want them to be or not. Open lines of communication are so important between kids and parents, and a lot of his music, while charged and filled with cuss words, also offers up teaching points. Of course, by the time my kids are in middle school/high school, Eminem will be nearing 50…

    I think you are a brilliant teacher and have said that many times to you before. Good lesson!

    • Kristen says:

      Heather – we are like sisters separated at birth. Do you know how many things you’ve posted that I would have LOVED to re-share and couldn’t? And, I do agree that he really uses some of his messages to bring issues to light. He swears on his albums and that bothers a lot of people, but I’ve heard a lot of church going people swear in private … so is there that much of a difference? Thanks for thinking the lesson was good – it feels great coming from a fellow sociologist!

  12. Laurie says:

    As someone who was in an abusive first marriage and understands how much those “sweet words affect the ability to fully process what is happening and enable one to escape the cycle, this lesson touches me personally. Bravo for bringing this lesson to your students. I know that had I ever been taught this in my younger years, I might have made different choices. Good job, Kristen.

  13. Cecily says:

    Wow, great post. What a fascinating class!

    I’m not surprised, though, that the girls misunderstood. Sigh.

    • Kristen says:

      Cecily – I’m glad you came over and read it. I’m also glad you think the class would be fascinating. And.. yes – it is really sad that the kids misunderstood – but not complete surprise.

  14. Katrina says:

    I hear this song a lot on the radio and I listen to the words as best as I can, but I’m just not that good of a rapper I guess because I just can’t keep up with what he’s saying! LOL So it was neat to read the lyrics you posted. Wow. Now that I know what all he’s saying….I HATE that song! I mean, I don’t so much hate the song as I do the reality of the song, I guess. I haven’t kept up…DID Rhianna go back to her abusive boyfriend? I guess because I’ve never been in that kind of relationship it’s hard for me to understand why women go back after being hit. So sad :( You sound like a wonderful teacher, by the way! What a great lesson to teach your class. If my kids were in your class it would have made me very happy to have had that lesson discussed in class. Invaluable Life Lessons are so rarely taught in school.

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks Katrina! To answer your questions – yes, for about a NY Second Rhianna did go back to Chris Brown, but it was over soon there after. I (personally) felt so sad that she did, but also that other young girls saw her publicly go back. Do you know what I mean? I actually don’t “hate” the song. I see it more empowering. I don’t know Eminem or Rhianna personally (tongue in cheek) – but I like to imagine that they wrote that song to raise awareness for domestic violence. Especially in light of her relationship to it. I’m glad you would have appreciated the lesson. :)

  15. Pish Posh says:

    I haven’t gotten to read all the other comments yet but I think that its wonderful that you teach this song and use the video and do not water it down by watering down the language. I do not agree with you 100% about your interpretation of the lyrics but that doesn’t matter much. I think its important to discuss why the children think its romantic (and many adults too) – maybe compare briefly with some other destructive love songs and the sentiments expressed in other popular love songs – such as Sheryl Crow’s “Lie to Me” song and the one with Kid Rock. Love songs often make lies, low self esteem, pain, seem romantic.

    I use another song from Eminem to raise topics that my students then go try to find in the library. I think its great what you are doing!

  16. I think it’s sad that the didn’t realize this was about domestic violence. That they would think that’s what true love looks like.

  17. Good for you for discussing the reality of things like this with your students and for breaking down what those lyrics REALLY mean. You are one hellova teacher.

  18. I love when teachers go “off the grid” and really connect with kids. They listen to this stuff every day without really thinking about what it means. I’ll bet you had some important conversations with these kids about things that their parents don’t even want to discuss with them…you made a difference. Sounds like a great day for you and your students.

    PS – Can I mention that I MISS TEACHING!!!

  19. Wonderful and candid post. Thanks so much for writing this. I work in a non-profit law firm that gets a lot of domestic violence survivors filing protection from #abuse orders (PFAs, aka restraining orders), #divorce, #custody, etc. Many times we have helped the mother, then daughter, so it is generational. We are also seeing an increase in #DV reporting from men as well.

    I have tweeted this post in hopes it will encourage conversation and support for those involved in domestic violence.

  20. Patrice P says:

    I really like this song, not because of the domestic violence that it portrays but because of the passion Eminem puts into the vocals. You can almost see into his crazy thoughts…

  21. Jamie says:

    What a great post and insight. Teenage girls thrive on drama and romance everything. I’m so glad that you were able to point out the realities of an abuse relationship. Hopefully, you made a long term difference in a young person’s life.

  22. I’ve already said this once today. Your kids are lucky to have you. This is a great lesson.

  23. Lynnie says:

    Wow. This is one of the best blog posts I have ever read. Good on you for teaching the young valuable lessons in life. I will be showing my daughters this post someday soon. And I look forward to looking through more of your blog!

    • Kristen says:

      Thanks so much. I really think a lot of students took away a good look at the dynamics of domestic violence from this lesson.


  1. [...] wide variety of her writing and if you read no other post on her site, you should read this one: Lesson 1: Domestic Violence. I only hope that my girls are lucky enough to end up with an educator like [...]

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