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DEAR HARRIETTE: I’ve been keeping up with a high-profile celebrity trial that deals with domestic violence between a man and a woman. My boyfriend and I were discussing the trial the other day over the phone. He was adamant about defending the male celebrity, even though he had been physically violent toward the female celebrity. He made a comment about how the woman “probably deserved it.” I was shocked and appalled that he would say something like that. After hearing my reaction, my boyfriend insisted that he would never hit a woman himself. I am not sure how safe I feel around him anymore. If he would condone that type of behavior from a man he doesn’t even know, does it mean that he could potentially become violent with me? — Feeling Unsafe
DEAR FEELING UNSAFE: Don’t read too much into this. It is a national pastime to argue about what celebrities do or don’t do and why. Sometimes people take sides and jump to conclusions in the moment, being spurred on by bravado.
Instead of getting overly worried, use this as a time for deeper communication with your boyfriend. Tell him straight up that you are nervous about his reaction to this situation. Point out that whether or not he was caught up in the moment, it sounded like he was defending what you consider to be indefensible behavior.
Ask him to talk about that with you. Try not to be accusatory. Create space to talk. When, if ever, does he believe it would be OK for a man to hit a woman, or vice versa? What might precipitate a violent interaction between a couple? Under what circumstances would a physical altercation be acceptable? Talk it out and see where your boyfriend stands. Then decide if he is still the one for you.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I was given the task of training a new employee at work. I’ve trained several employees before. I understand the importance of being gracious and kind to new employees, as it is easy to become intimidated by a new job, so I go out of my way to be super kind to newbies. I found out a few days ago that the trainee has been telling all of my colleagues that I was flirting with him the entire time I trained him! I am not sure if he was confused by my kindness or if he just decided to tell a blatant lie, but my feelings are hurt by the accusation. What should I do? — Lying Trainee
DEAR LYING TRAINEE: You need to take action to protect yourself. Speak to HR immediately and let them know what is going on. Describe how you trained this person and the feedback that you are getting from colleagues. Ask for guidance on how to handle this situation. It could be recommended that you have a follow-up meeting with the trainee where you express your concern about what you have heard. You can ask directly what behaviors he considered flirtatious, and you can explain that your intention was simple kindness. With HR’s blessing, you can apologize for doing or saying anything that made the trainee uncomfortable as you assure him that you wanted nothing more than to be friendly and supportive.