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Guest Report - Preventing Teen Dating Violence

 

I'm Jess Holland, Youth Advocate for HELP of Door County. I want you to think about the most important dating relationship you've ever had. How old were you? 18? 25? 30? How about 12? Approximately 72 percent of eighth and ninth grade students are "dating." A new study from Cornell University found that roughly 20% of teenagers report that they experienced emotional abuse in the past year and about 10% reported physical abuse. That means that roughly one out of five teens has experienced dating violence. While we each believe that our own children will never be one of these five, it is safer to discuss healthy dating than to rest on our laurels, because that may leave your child as a victim or perpetrator of abuse.

And dating violence doesn't just affect our children while they are in these relationships. Females who experience dating abuse in their teens describe increased depression, binge drinking or smoking, and are twice as likely to contemplate suicide in early adulthood. Similarly, males who were in abusive relationships in their teens report more drug use, suicidal thoughts, and anti-social behaviors in early adulthood. In both cases, adults are more than twice as likely to currently be in a violent relationship if they experienced dating violence in their teens.

As parents, as teachers, as friends, as a community, let's prevent any more teens from committing themselves to violent partners by making abuse unacceptable. Be a role model of respect and equality. Talk to your children about boundaries, safety and healthy relationships. Listen to what children have to say. I mean, really listen and let them know that their thoughts are just as important as someone's who may be older. And tell children what makes them special every day so that their belief in themselves is strong. Together we can end dating violence; let's prove it.

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