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We can all play a role in preventing teen dating violence

To the editor,
This February, New Beginnings would like to invite the community to join us in taking a stand against teen dating violence. February has been designated as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month since 2010, and this provides an excellent opportunity for us as a community to call awareness to the specific ways intimate partner violence affects teens.
Statistics collected by the National Resource Center for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month are alarmingly high. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year. One in three girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. One quarter of high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse or sexual assault committed by an intimate or dating partner.
In addition to the pervasiveness of abuse among teens, there are several research findings that illustrate why a focus on teens is so important. About 72 percent of eighth and ninth grade students are dating. Violent behavior often begins between the ages of 12 and 18. Young women ages of 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence, almost triple the national average. The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
These numbers are even more problematic considering the lack of awareness and education of dating violence. 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit that they don't know if it is an issue. While 82 percent of parents feel confident that they could recognize the signs if their child was experiencing dating violence, a majority of parents could not correctly identify all the warning signs of abuse.
The good news is that we all can play a role in preventing teen dating violence. Three of the essential things adults can do are: learn more about teen dating violence, model healthy relationships and talk to teens in our lives about abuse and healthy relationships. As with all efforts to protect our teens, it is important that adults start the conversation rather than waiting for teens to come to us. Start young and keep the conversation age-appropriate. Teens have a crucial role to play, too. They can promote healthy relationships among their peers, learn techniques for safe, effective bystander intervention, and join New Beginnings' Youth Advisory Board to help raise awareness of dating violence.
New Beginnings serves all of Belknap County and is devoted to ending domestic and sexual violence and stalking through education, prevention, and services to those whose lives have been affected by violence. We offer educational workshops for teens and adults about teen dating violence. These presentations are free-of-charge and can be adapted for teen, professional, and parent audiences. If you are interested in having New Beginnings present to a group of teens or adults, call (603)528-6511.
If you think you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship call 1-866-644-3574 to speak with a trained advocate. There is no minimum age to call a crisis line. Services are free, confidential, and available 24/7.
Kitty Kiefer
New Beginnings
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