By Teresa Dehning

February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, and it is critical that we take this time to remember that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults.

One in three adolescents in the US will be a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner And two-thirds of teens who are in an abusive relationship never tell anyone about the abuse. It’s time to shine a light on this issue.

Please join Helping Services for Northeast Iowa Domestic and Sexual Abuse Resource Center in promoting healthy relationships to teens in Northeast Iowa.

On February 14, we encourage you to read the following statement aloud – on your schools P.A. system, to your class or before youth group meetings. Help send a message that love has many definitions, but abuse isn’t one of them!

“This Valentine’s Day, we’d like to make sure everyone knows: we all deserve safe and healthy relationships. If you or someone you know has questions about their relationship – you can call the Resource Centers Crisis line at 1-800-383-2988 to speak to an advocate Remember, love has many definitions, but abuse isn’t one of them.”

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 a safe place to go. They may also 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. Northeast Iowa should take the lead in raising awareness and preventing teen dating violence. There are many ways that you can take part:

  • 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 Iowa. Iowa currently has a grade of a C when it comes to laws protecting teens against dating violence. We have to do better.
  • Sign the dating pledge.
  • Take the time to educate yourself and others about teen dating violence.
  • Hang this poster at your workplace, on a local bulletin board, on a bathroom stall, any where teens might be looking for help.
  • The following websites offer information about teen dating violence and what you can do to help:

Step in and be part of ending the cycle of abuse, especially for our youth.

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