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Shining a light on teen dating violence

Superior High School freshmen painted a frank portrait of their dating world when responding to a fall 2016 survey given by Nicole Nemec from the Center Against Sexual and Domestic Abuse.

Of the 65 student respondents, 5 percent of males and 5 percent of females reported being pressured to have sex or go further sexually than they were comfortable with; 14 percent of males and 5 percent of females have stayed with a current or past boyfriend or girlfriend because they threatened to hurt them, their friends or families; and no males and 23 percent of females have been called names that made them feel bad about themselves by a current or past boyfriend or girlfriend.

And 5 percent of males and 12 percent of females have been hit, slapped, pushed, kicked or hurt in any way by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

"This last statistic is of particular importance because it shows that our girls as freshman have already exceeded the national norm," Nemec told students at the high school Wednesday.

If you're old enough to date, you're at a risk for dating violence. That was the message Nemec and other members of the Douglas County Council on Child Protection shared with students.

"We are here today to add our voices in saying, 'This is not OK and we intend to do more to educate ourselves and our community about this important issue,'" Nemec said.

She encouraged parents to talk to their kids about domestic violence.

"Educating our young people about what a healthy relationship should look like is an important part of our responsibility to keep them safe," Nemec said.

Rural students aren't any safer. Although no survey has been administered at Northwestern High School, Nemec said CASDA receives more calls from the school regarding teen dating violence.

Part of the reason may be that students who live in communities where isolation is more of a geographical issue are vulnerable to these types of issues. Another reason for the higher volume of calls at Northwestern may be an issue of trust.

"I give high credit to the school district for actively seeking assistance for students experiencing these issues," Nemec said. "Because of the support of their staff students there seem more comfortable with coming to the adults in the building."

Warning signs of abuse can include constant put-downs, extreme jealousy, mood swings and explosive temper, according to www.loveisrespect.org. A relationship may be going in the wrong direction if your partner is isolating you from friends or family, making false accusations, checking your cell phone or email without permission and physically hurting you.

"Many of the stories I hear are from students who have home lives that have already placed them at risk," Nemec said. "In many cases parents are not available for supervision or active in their children's lives. Oftentimes the situation is exacerbated by the teen having special needs of one kind or another."

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and the Council on Child Protection is focusing on that. A "Hearts on Your Sleeve Campaign" will take place during lunch at Superior High School next week. A teen dating violence inservice was presented to local educators Feb. 14 and an additional teen dating violence presentation will be given to the senior class in March.

Adults are also being asked to increase their awareness, help break the cycle and empower the youth in their lives to end domestic violence.

"Please talk to your kids about domestic violence," Nemec said. "Teens who are involved in violent dating relationships are on track to be involved in adult domestic violence."

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