February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Beaman Home’s DoVE Outreach Program advocate April Slone wants area parents to know one out of three teens are experiencing teen dating abuse or violence, according to a release from the organization.
She said that only 33 percent of those in an abusive relationship tell anyone about it. It is the leading cause of injury to young women, and the abuse results in severe psychological effects including anxiety, inability to concentrate and suicidal behavior. Many teens don’t recognize the behaviors as abuse, she said.
Family discussion about teen dating abuse help teens understand the dangers of a violent relationship that can ruin lives and, in some cases, end lives, according to Slone. That’s why Beaman Home’s DoVE Outreach Program is working to share the knowledge of warning signs interventions and preventions of teen dating violence.
Slone’s research and experience indicate that 75 percent of parents don’t talk with their children about relationships.
“While those numbers are high and scary, talking to your kids should not be,” she said in the release. “Although your kids may not tell you this, they actually want to have those conversations. When you initiate these conversations, you have the power to set them up for safer and healthier relationships throughout their lives.”
High school students who are members of the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Youth Council have talked with teens and adults across the state about why these conversations aren’t happening and why they are important, according to the release. Adults have told them they are afraid to begin the conversations. The Youth Council suggests there’s a difference between not knowing the right thing to say and choosing to say nothing at all, and recommend parents using their past experience, and any new information they may have, to help lead teens in the right direction.
Slone reminds parents that conversations – talking and listening both – are better than interrogations, or shooting questions at them and expecting immediate answers. She recommends:
• Talk to your children and let them know what teen dating violence is. Guide them on how to react and remove themselves from dangerous situations. Help them make healthier choices.
• If you find your teen in a violent relationship, don’t judge them. Use active listening skills and let them know you are there for them.
• Remind teens that they always have the right to say “no” in relationships.
• Make sure your teen knows what love is and what it isn’t. Love doesn’t hurt and possessiveness and jealously are not signs of love, Slone said.
• Know who your teen is dating. Learn as much as you can about them, their family and background. This is not over-protectiveness, said Slone – it’s love and concern for your child’s well-being.
• Arming youth with skills and tools to assess their current and future relationships is vital in protecting their futures, self-esteem and physical well-being.
Slone urges parents to visit www.stand4respect.org for information on starting conversations. Topics include consent, healthy uses of social media, giving and receiving respect and supporting teens through breakups and fights. Then talk with your teens, she said.
The DoVE Outreach Program provides essential educational tools to fight domestic violence and abuse at all levels. To learn more or to schedule a group presentation or training, contact Slone at 574-267-3044.
To enable Beaman Home to better understand issues teen are facing in this community, teens are encouraged to complete Beaman Home’s confidential Teen Dating Abuse Survey by March 20 at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Beamanhome
(Story By The Times Union)