No, the 17-year-old Angeleno was honored by the Jenesse Center --- the oldest domestic violence program in South Los Angeles --- with its “Silver Rose” award for his on- and off-campus tireless work to stop domestic violence before it becomes a lifelong destructive pattern with his peers. In fact, the theme of the event, “Hope Equals Youth,” was based on Bryson’s steadfast volunteer efforts over many years to lessen inter-relational violence that runs across race, gender and socioeconomic lines.  When the columnist asked the adolescent what motivated him to take up this particular cause, he just shrugged before pointing to his mother, Sherron Rouzan. “She’s been doing this as long as I can remember,” he said. “So I’ve been involved all my life.”A week or so later, The Tidings sat down with Bryson to get a better take on why a teenager today would want to tackle such a heavy societal issue. For his recent senior project --- where Loyola seniors take a three-week break from classes to work for social justice at some local nonprofit agency --- he and nine other students raised about $4,500 and renovated one of the transitional housing apartments at the Jenesse Center. The boys cajoled family members and friends to donate furniture as well as gift cards from stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target. In doing so, he followed the lead of not only his mother, who has volunteered at the center for more than 20 years, but also his granddad. The police officer and city official often referred battered women and their children to Jenesse, which was founded in 1980 by five African American women who were survivors of domestic abuse.Bryson has also done book drives for the Jenesse center, collected and sorted donated clothes, and tutored children staying at the emergency shelter or in long-term transitional housing.  Last year he co-created a group called “The Change” to do a PSA (Public Service Announcement) called “Break the Silence of Domestic Violence” for a YouTube blast to spread the word about its upcoming “Youth Conversation” luncheon to address the whole domestic violence issue. The lunch drew some 150 people, including 80 teenagers, to the outdoor affair held at his aunt’s backyard.“The Youth Conversation luncheon was a huge start because not many people my age talk about domestic violence or think it’s important,” he observed, sitting in a second-floor office in Loyola’s stately Ruppert Hall. “There’s people I’ve come across who are uncomfortable talking about it because they’ve been through the situation and aren’t willing to come forward to talk about it. “But that’s the main point with people my age. It’s really all about discussing it. That’s the first thing that we have to do in order to start changing the way we view domestic violence.”Emotional bruisesIn her column, Banks said national studies found that four-out-of-ten teenage girls reported they either have been abused themselves or know somebody their age who’s been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. But that startling statistic doesn’t surprise Bryson. In fact, he thinks it might be on the low side.“It’s huge and I don’t think many people see that,” he pointed out. “Because many people find domestic violence and dating violence to be rare. But I’ve come across so many people who have walked up to me after giving a speech or during the Youth Conversation and say, ‘You know, I was a victim of domestic violence,’ or ‘I’ve had this situation where violence was involved.’ “So that’s proved to me it’s not a rare issue. It really is a common social issue, but I don’t think many people understand that until they witness it or experience it themselves. But it’s really common.”The senior --- who plays the piano and sings, and hopes to be a professional musician after going to college --- said what woke up a lot of teenagers was the highly publicized 2009 case of R&B singer and songwriter Chris Brown beating up fellow singer Rihanna the night before the Grammys. The photo released of Rihanna’s battered face brought home the reality of dating violence like no social scientist’s study ever could. Months later Brown pleaded guilty to a felony, with part of his sentence being that he would receive domestic violence counseling.“For me, that’s really proof it can happen to anybody,” Bryson said.And then there’s emotional abuse, which he believes can have an even greater toll on the fragile psyches of developing youths. “The physical abuse you can deal with, but it’s really the emotional abuse that just stays with you forever,” he stressed. “The bruises can go away, but it’s the bruises on, like, the heart and in your mind that truly affect you for the rest of your life. “I would definitely say a huge factor of emotional abuse for teenagers would be bullying,” he pointed out. “And I would categorize that under domestic violence because when you go home as a teenager and you’ve been bullied and harassed by a certain social group, you’re bringing that attitude into your home. And so it’s a domestic issue. Also it’s a social issue. That’s a major factor in high school.” ‘That’s not right!’Bryson Rouzan-Thomas has been trying to change all this.“I think the first step is just discussing it, because not many people want to talk about it,” he said. “And even though many people won’t believe it until they see it, we need to start telling people: ‘Start doing something about it before you experience it.’ One of the major issues is that young people don’t really notice it at first, and they kind of like push it off to the side or put it under the blanket.“But I think you really, like, have to open your eyes to the situation. And if you experience something --- if he hits you or says something about you and makes fun of you --- you should take notice of it and say, ‘That’s not right!’ You know, you have to do something about it, especially if you’re already in a relationship. If you think that hitting and violence is a way to resolve a situation, then that’s a major issue that many people don’t really notice and don’t embrace.” The teen has even caught himself making fun of others and has had to “create a line,” knowing when to stop joking because it might really affect a friend’s or classmate’s feelings. And he has witnessed on-campus bullying where the person horsing around didn’t take it that serious, but the butt of the joke was genuinely hurt. He tries his best now not to behave at the expense of others. When asked if inter-relational abuse between teenagers can lead to adult abuse, Bryson barely thinks before answering: “Definitely. And that’s why I think it’s so important that we educate teenagers. Because really the facts show that if you kind of go through a similar situation in your teenage years, it’s very likely that you’ll put that into an adult relationship. Something you do between 15 and 18 can really come back and affect you in a relationship that you have at the age of 30.“So that’s why I keep on saying that the education is needed now,” he noted. “Fifteen to 18 is the perfect age to discuss it before you go off to college and are in some of these situations that are similar to being violence abuse. So it’s really important to impact teenagers now before they go on to the next generation and put it in their adult relationships.”‘Trailblazer of hope’At the gala event that Sandy Banks wrote about, emcee Jamie Foxx called Bryson a “trailblazer of hope.” Plus he got a big hug from Halle Berry, who has been involved at the Jenesse Center for a number of years. The senior says he doesn’t mean to brag, but the movie star is really like his big sister.Moreover, he stresses how he’s blessed to have an “amazing” mom who has supported him in all his anti-domestic violence works. And then there’s his Catholic faith.“You know, I don’t think that I’d be doing what I was doing if I didn’t have a strong faith,” he mused. “Because it would be like: ‘Why are you doing this? What are you doing this for?’ I think that having a strong faith and knowing that God is on your side and knowing that giving back is a purpose and a duty and a responsibility --- that’s really what has pushed me and made me strive for what everything that I’ve given.”     {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2011/0506/loyola/{/gallery}*Ten warning signs of dating violence:Checking your cell phone or email without permission;Constant put-downs;Extreme jealousy or insecurity;Explosive temper;Financial control;Isolating you from family or friends;Mood swings;Physically hurting you in any way;Possessiveness;Telling you what to do.*Source: violence