Each February, as part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program works to inspire and support young people to build healthy relationships and create a culture without abuse.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Among high school students who dated, 21% of females and 10% of males experienced physical and/or sexual dating violence.
• Among adult victims of rape, physical violence and/or stalking, by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.
Domestic violence is often seen as an adult topic, but relationship violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic standing, ethnicity, religion or culture. It does not discriminate. This year, especially, is so critical to raising awareness as young people are dealing with more stressors, including adapting to virtual learning, isolation, depression, financial struggles and racial and gender inequity that is harmfully impacting self-confidence and relationships.
One of the most impactful components of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month education for CAP’s advocates is a revolutionary interactive tool “In Their Shoes," developed by the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence and implemented in classrooms across the country. It gives advocates the opportunity to use real stories about teen dating to teach local students how to recognize abusive relationships in peer groups.
Over the course of a class period, “In Their Shoes” sparks discussion, increases awareness and encourages students to think about what they can do to help people in unhealthy relationships and to be in a healthy, fun and safe relationship themselves. They are presented with real-experiences of teens attempting to leave a relationship in a dangerous time, being called names or put down by a partner in text messages to illustrate how dating violence can begin in middle school or high school. Students follow prompts representing different responses to conflict and explore possible ways of seeking help like friends, family, counselors and law enforcement, receiving both support and rejection along the way. Most likely, someone in the room has gone through something similar. After the students move through the scenarios, CAP’s advocates are able to facilitate meaningful discussion of what an abusive relationship looks like and understanding the tough choices victims often face.
Healthy relationship skills developed during adolescence form the foundation for a lifetime of safe and respectful relationships. While the classroom component of our awareness campaign is on pause due to COVID-19 restrictions, Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month gives us all the opportunity at home and in our community to take action toward a solution.
The easiest way to make a difference is to join us Feb. 9 for Wear Orange Day to raise awareness, show support and let young people know that help is available. We can start a conversation just by wearing orange, taking a picture and sharing it on social media. More information is available on our Facebook page at facebook.com/cayugaseneca. We will also be sharing important information throughout the month that will educate and empower our youth and our community to enable us to work together to break the cycle.
Statistics show that teen dating violence is becoming increasingly common, and only a third of teens who experience dating violence ever tell anyone about the abuse. Spreading awareness allows us to let those experiencing abuse know they are not alone and that help is available, including CAP’s 24-hour confidential domestic violence hotline (1-315-255-6221). We envision a community free of domestic and sexual violence, and together we can make that vision a reality. To get involved, request educational materials or volunteer with CAP’s Domestic Violence Intervention Program, call Frank Barwinczak, director of family and victim services, at (315) 255-1703 ext. 143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Unhealthy or abusive relationships take on many forms; below are common warning signs:
• Checking cellphones, emails or social networks without permission
• Extreme jealousy or insecurity
• Constant belittling or putdowns
• Explosive temper
• Isolation from family and friends
• Making false accusations
• Constant mood swings toward you
• Physically inflicting pain or hurting you in any way
• Telling someone what they can and cannot do
• Repeatedly pressuring someone to have sex
Jennifer Rossi is the marketing and development director at Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca and can be reached at (315) 255-1703 ext. 155 or email@example.com.