February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month and staff and volunteers at Sheltering Wings in Danville are looking to spread the word.
Teenagers and even adults do not always understand teen dating abuse. It is not something that is easily described, but experts in the field say it is happening far too often.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three teens will experience abuse in a dating relationship and more than two-thirds will never report it to anyone.
In a nationwide survey, 9.8 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.)
However, abuse is not always physical. Emotional, verbal, economic, sexual, and spiritual abuse is happening as well.
Teen dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors that are used to exert power and control over a dating partner. Sources say the majority of victims do not report it because they are afraid, feel like it is justified, they don’t know the resources, or they feel like they really love the person.
Experts say victims may carry the patterns of abuse into future relationships as well. Unhealthy relationships can start early and might begin with teasing or name calling. Some examples of dating abuse include threatening, embarrassing, bullying, and isolation from friends or family.
In honor of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, Sheltering Wings will be visiting schools and youth organizations to help teenagers recognize the warning signs of abuse. Representatives will also be discussing how to help a friend who is going through an abusive situation.
Sheltering Wings Youth Council, consisting of young adults from various high schools in the community, work alongside the shelter’s director of education and outreach to share the program.