“February might be the month of love, but young love can turn into an unhealthy relationship, one that can be possessive, volatile, even physically abusive,” points out Mary Mattingly, Safe Passage community outreach and communications director.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and the local nonprofit is shedding light on this subject both for teens and their parents. Dating abuse affects people of all ages, backgrounds and identities. Consider:
• One in three high school students experience violence that is perpetrated by someone they are dating or going out with;
• One in 10 high school students have been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend;
• One in four high school males who have experienced sexual and physical abuse by a dating partner have seriously contemplated suicide and almost half of teen females have considered it.
Teen dating violence can be physical, emotional or sexual. It can occur in person or electronically, which includes texting, social media and other online applications.
This month parent and teen presentations or activities are meant to enlighten and educate what is appropriate behavior. “We want to have a deeper conversation on teen dating violence, and more about the concept of normalization, the cultural mindset, and what that means,” said Fran Edwards of the parent TDV sessions. The goal is more for more parents to be aware of what their kids are seeing or hearing regularly through social media, music, film and games. “None of these cause violence, but it desensitizes our youth,” Edwards said, adding, “Violence is a choice. Most know what is right and wrong, but how much are they aware of what is healthy or not? The lines have been blurred and it has made it harder to recognize.”
The Safe Passage team points out obsessive texting, for example, can cross the line. “When a boyfriend or girlfriend wants to constantly know where you are or demand how quickly you respond to texts or guilts you into a certain behavior, that’s not about caring and safety, but more about control,” said Danielle Becker. Teaching healthy relationship skills and changing norms can help prevent teen dating violence. After all, everyone deserves a healthy relationship.
Safe Passage’s prevention team (Fran Edwards, Chloe Bachus, Morgan Jobst, Susan Westmeyer and Danielle Becker) will offer teen dating violence awareness programs to students and parents this month in the six-county district the nonprofit serves.
Seven are planned: Hanover College, Feb. 12; Batesville vs. East Central home game, Batesville, Feb. 15, 1 p.m.; Ivy Tech Community College, Madison, Feb. 18; Batesville High School, Feb. 20; Tyson Library, Versailles, Feb. 21; Milan High School, Feb. 27; and Jac-Cen-Del vs. South Ripley basketball game, Feb. 28.
At the last event, the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) teams from both schools are bringing the message about teen dating violence awareness. They have organized a penny wars contest between the schools, with proceeds going to Safe Passage, and also a contest to determine which school can get the most students to wear orange (the TDV color) to the game. Mattingly advises, “Look for the coin jars, signage and orange ribbons among the cheerleaders, coaches and band members.” TDV data will also be announced by the teen leaders at the game and posters will be hung as well.
Similar plans are also in the works by the Safe Passage Teen Council for the Batesville vs. East Central game.
The prevention coordinators are also presenting to parents Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 5:30 p.m. at Amack’s Well, Batesville; and Friday, Feb. 28, at 4 p.m. at the Milan Public Library. All are welcome to attend the 45-minute to one-hour sessions.
Safe Passage is a domestic and sexual violence support services provider that serves Ripley, Franklin, Ohio, Dearborn, Switzerland and Jefferson counties. Safe Place is a division of Safe Passage and serves sexual assault victims. All services are free and confidential. For more information, go to www.safepassageinc.org, or call toll-free 812-933-1990 or 877-733-1990.
Safe Passage thanks its major sponsors: Margaret Mary Health, Anytime Fitness, Hillenbrand/Batesville, William A. and Martha H. Hillenbrand Foundation and John A. Hillenbrand Foundation.