Steps to HOPE raises awareness of teen dating violence

Published 3:40 pm Friday, February 11, 2011

February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month and Steps to HOPE wants the public to take this time to remember that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults.

One in three adolescents in the U.S. will be a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Nearly 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. And two-thirds of teens who are in an abusive relationship never tell anyone about the abuse.

Recognizing abuse in a relationship can be difficult, especially for teens. There are many types of abuse that young people may believe are normal in a relationship. Even though teen relationships may be different from adult relationships, teens can experience the same types of abuse.

Teens also face unique obstacles if they decide to get help. They may not have money, transportation or know of a safe place to go. They may also have concerns about confidentiality with many adults obligated to make reports to police, parents and/or child protective services.

But, teens have a right to safe and healthy relationships. There are many ways to raise awareness and prevent teen violence:

• Listen and be nonjudgmental when a victim shares what she/he is going through and offer information about Steps to HOPE, Polk County’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault prevention and treatment center.

• Encourage legislators to introduce laws that require teen dating violence education in the classroom. Teens spend the majority of their time in school or at school-related activities and without laws in place to protect them, domestic and sexual violence among teens will continue to cause upheaval at home and at school. Encourage school leaders to step up if legislators will not and offer to pay the often small fees (less than $100) for effective dating violence prevention curricula.

• Know the laws in North Carolina. Steps to HOPE believes that teen victims of dating violence deserve the same legal protections that adult victims of domestic abuse receive. Young victims should also have access to the legal system and other sensitive services needed to ensure their safety. Teens often face overwhelming obstacles to these basic legal protections, many of which are written into their states’ laws. North Carolina’s laws pertaining to teen domestic scored a “C” on Break the Cycle’s teen dating violence “State Law Report Card” (http://www.breakthecycle.org/system/files/pdf/Teen-Dating-Violence-State-Law-Report-Card-North-Carolina-2010.pdf).

• Take the time to educate yourself and others about teen dating violence. The following websites offer information about teen dating violence and what you can do to help: www.breakthecycle.org, www.loveisrespect.org, www.thesafespace.org and wwww.teenDVmonth.org.

The mission of Steps to HOPE is to create a community free from the violence of domestic and sexual abuse through education, advocacy and victim assistance.

For more information, contact Steps to HOPE at 828-894-2340.