February is the month of love. Lots of people want a relationship, but you have to be careful when dating or getting to know someone.

February is also the Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Being a part of Revolution the past two and a half years through the Center for Survivors has really opened my eyes to the things that happen today in the lives of teens in my school and around Nebraska.

Revolution is a group filled with high school students wanting to spread awareness and prevention about dating violence and sexual assault. Many times, dating violence is a topic that not a lot of people want to talk about because it may make them feel uncomfortable or they may not believe it is happening in their school but that makes our group even more important.

Teen dating violence is when someone between the ages of 12-18 in a relationship is abused in any way. There are three main types of dating violence: physical, emotional and sexual.

Physical abuse can be anything from pinching to being punched. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide have been a victim of physical abuse from a dating partner and one in ten high school students report being purposely hit by a dating partner. Those are really scary numbers to think about.

Emotional abuse includes threatening a partner or harming their self-confidence. Some examples include name calling, shaming, verbal bullying, embarrassing your partner on purpose or isolating them from their friends or family.

The final type of dating abuse is sexual violence. This can be sexual harassment of a partner like forcing the other to perform sexual activities. I found a staggering statistic that 21 percent of high school females and 10 percent of high school males have experienced sexual abuse from a dating relationship.

Dating violence is more common than you think. According to loveisrespect.org, girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average.

However, studies find that boys can be abused in relationships as well. In one U.S. government study, they found 11 percent of boys who were interviewed had been victims.

Some people don’t think that dating violence and sexual assault are a big deal because they may not recognize the warning signs, and a lot of teens in abusive relationships do not ever tell anyone. In fact only 33 percent of teens in abusive relationships ever tell anyone about the abuse. This may be because they do not understand that it is abusive or because they not think they will be believed. It is important for victims of violence to have a positive support system so they are able to feel safe and talk about the abuse.

Overall, teen dating violence is a widespread problem. If you or someone that you know is a victim of dating violence, there are many things that you can do to get help. If you think that you are in an abusive relationship, tell a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, counselor or nurse.

You can also contact the Center for Survivors if you would like to speak with an advocate. Also, if you know someone in an unhealthy relationship you can help them by being a good listener, and believing them. You can offer your friendship and support by encouraging them to get help from an adult and helping plan for their safety. 

The Center for Survivors is a free and confidential organization that can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 800-685-4482. They are happy to answer questions and provide free and confidential services for victims of abuse.

Paige Jeffryes is a junior at Columbus High School. She is a second-year member of the Center for Survivors Revolution.

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