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“All Too Well” – the Danger of Large Age Gaps in Dating

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

If you’re anything like the rest of the world, you are still on the floor eating a tub of ice cream after Taylor Swift released Red (Taylor’s Version), as well as the 10-minute music video to “All Too Well” last Friday.

One thing fans have noticed was the actors playing Taylor and (trigger warning) Jake Gyllenhaal in the 10-minute film were on two very opposite ends of the age spectrum; actress Sadie Sink being 19 years old, and actor Dylan O’Brien being 30. What was the plan for this? Well, as our beloved storytelling blondie always does, Swift actually is reenacting to a tee what had actually gone down during her three months with Gyllenhaal back in 2010. This age gap, of course, has been common knowledge to Swifties as well as the general public for the past couple of years. Sadly enough, the song “Dear John” also indicates an even bigger age gap between Swift and singer John Mayer, which also caused a tremendous amount of trauma, as well as heartbreak for the, at the time, 19-year-old Taylor. Younger women in society being sought out by older men is not a concept only practiced in Hollywood. In fact, the abusive tactic is a lot more common than you think.

Older Doesn’t Mean Wiser

We’ve heard the saying “Women mature faster than men” throughout the years. But, sadly to some, that makes those who wish to do harm utilize that phrase as a means to talk to younger women. The word “grooming” is defined as when someone builds a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.

According to author Eric Marlowe Garrison in an interview with Allure magazine, those who groom younger women due to signs of what they deem as vulnerability such as gullibility, insecurity, certain religions, and or culture. These men may then use these signs as a means to build trust with their newfound “partner”. Most of the time, the victim in the situation may become incredibly impressionable, and they may follow everything and do whatever it takes to appease their partners.

You hear this in Taylor’s verse in “All Too Well” when she states “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.” Secrecy, in general, is the main factor in grooming tactics used by abusers with younger partners. They try to keep the relationship very closed off from the rest of the world due to the blatant backlash that would be received on their end from outsiders looking in or loved ones. This also is a tactic used to ultimately separate the victim from those who are seemingly watchful over them Marlowe Garrison also states. It is all about total control, due to the active amount of trust and deception formed during the beginning stages of the relationship.

Perpetrators also may also use this form of secrecy due to a feeling of overall shame, which we also hear in ATW when Taylor sings “You said if we had been closer in age maybe it would’ve been fine.” It is thought with this single lyric that quite possibly there was a feeling of shame and regret on Gyllenhaal’s behalf due to being almost ten years Swift’s senior at the time of their relationship. After all, she was just a teenager. With the power over their younger partner, abusers in some instances can utilize acts of violence if there is a negative situation that arises. This can be anything from verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men are victims of domestic violence from a partner. With a large age gap, there is the potential for coercion to do certain acts that in a typical setting the victim is not entirely comfortable with. If the relationship ends, the events that took place in the relationship may cause an immense amount of trauma on the victim right on top of the heartbreak that comes with a breakup.

How to Help

Those who are victims in these sorts of situations may not even realize it until years later. At the same time, they may not choose to acknowledge it when people bring up their concerns for that person’s well-being in that relationship. While there are many hotlines to utilize in situations like these, the best way to help a person who potentially is getting groomed by a partner is to remain as a consistent support system in their life. Always make sure to keep a watchful eye on the person to make sure they know that they are not alone and that their partner is not their one and only savior. Initially, it will be tough due to the active ways an abuser may try to manipulate their partner into cutting everyone off. However, it is indeed possible to call the same hotlines if as a concerned loved one on behalf of the victim’s well-being. The Domestic Abuse Hotline will actually allow third parties to help come to the rescue in order to get victims out of the situations they are in. But, the best way to help victims of grooming is to consistently build that trust and listen to not only the victim’s voice but their body language as well. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Overall, not everyone is capable of writing a heartfelt song about their abuse like Taylor Swift and many other artists. The idea of grooming is a concept rooted deeply in rape culture and is incredibly common in all walks of life. Listen to your friends when they say “there is a reason they cannot get people to date them who are their own age”.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) or the Victim Connect Resource Center (855-484-2846).

Taylor Eureste is a fifth year Fashion Merchandising and Product Development (FMPD) student at Bowling Green State University. They love to write and read various articles that help lift other young women up in today's society. Eureste is a huge advocate for Latinx and LGBTQ+ youth as well as women empowerment on their college campus. They hopes that they can inspire someone with their words or at the very least make someone's day a little better.
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