Teen dating violence: a conversation that needs to happen

HOUGHTON — It is a topic many people are not comfortable discussing. That is why the conversation needs to happen. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Locally, Dial Help is at the forefront of raising awareness of this.

In a Tuesday release, Dial Help stated that staff members from Dial Help’s Victim Services Department are sharing information to help our community better understand this topic.

Youth.gov states that studies show that approximately 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year, which is also stated in the Dial Help release.

Girls are particularly vulnerable to experiencing violence in their relationships and are more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences, including suicide attempts, eating disorders and drug use. Teens in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships.

“Teens may not even realize they’re in an abusive relationship,” said Virginia Lambert, Director of Victim Services at Dial Help. “Often, they simply don’t have the life experience to recognize what’s going on, or maybe they see similar behavior at home and think it’s normal. Many people don’t realize that nationwide, youth age 12 to 19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, so this is a very real issue.”

This is an issue that impacts everyone – not just teens – but their parents, teachers, friends and communities as well, says youth.gov.

“Dating violence is more common than you may think, especially among teens and young adults: 1 in 3 U.S. teens will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a dating partner,” states the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County, PA. “Nearly half (43%) of U.S. college and university women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors.”

And it happens right here in the Copper Country, said Lambert.

“We want to empower teens to have healthy relationships, recognize the warning signs that something is wrong, and find resources for support,” she said.

One recommended resource is www.loveisrespect.org, suggests Dial Help. Here, teens can learn about dating, healthy and unhealthy relationship behavior, and even take a quiz to determine if their relationship is potentially abusive. There is information for friends and family concerned about a loved one, resources specifically for Tribal members, and a hotline with text and chat options for additional support.

The Houghton/Keweenaw Communities That Care (HKCTC) coalition is also sharing information for TDVAM. HKCTC is a group of community members working to prevent youth substance use, depression, delinquency, and more. They are collaborating with Dial Help and members of local Teen Outreach Program (TOP) after-school clubs to create signs and social media posts to spread the word about teen dating violence.

“Although the CTC doesn’t specifically focus on dating violence, we still want to address it this month,” said Callisto Cortez, HKCTC Coordinator. “We think anything that impacts youth is important to talk about, and dating violence in teen relationships is something that often gets overlooked in discussions about domestic violence and abuse. Abuse thrives in silence, and education is a key part of breaking that silence.”

Teens who are experiencing dating violence can contact:

• Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home (Houghton County): 906-337-5623

• Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter Home (Ontonagon County): 906-884-4004

• Baraga Shelter Home: 906-524-7078

• Dial Help: 906-482-HELP, or text 906-35NEEDS, or chat online

• Love Is Respect Hotline: 866-331-9474, or text LOVE to 22522, or chat online

• National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Dial Help’s Victim Services is funded by the Division of Victim Services, and their website is www.dialhelp.org. HKCTC is funded by NorthCare Network, Prevention Network, Portage Health Foundation, and Superior Health Foundation, and their website is www.houghtonkeweenawctc.com.


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