Public Urged to Wear Orange for Teen Dating Violence Awareness

February 8, 2016

When it comes to dating, respect for each other is crucial. That’s the message one high-school student recently took away after participating in YWCA Central Alabama’s Healthy Relationships program.

“Respect is important because you want to treat someone the same way you want to be treated,” said the Ashville Middle School student, who participated in the program with her peers last week. “And self respect is mostly where it all starts, because if you actually respect yourself, you won’t let people abuse you.”

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and statistics show that not enough teenagers share that mindset. Nationally, one in three teens will experience physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse in a dating relationship, according to loveisrespect.org. And one in 10 have been purposefully slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

In an effort to raise awareness about teen dating violence, the National Youth Advisory Board will host Respect Week Feb. 8-12, 2016. Tuesday, Feb. 9, is Wear Orange Day, and everyone is urged to break out their orange shirts, fingernail polish, shoestrings or jackets to help spread the word that dating violence is a real problem.

“We hear a lot about the Zika virus and Ebola in the news lately, but approximately 10 percent of our youth is experiencing dating violence every day. That, to me, is an epidemic,” said Annetta Nunn, YWCA’s community outreach coordinator.  “We need to put the same kind of attention on teen dating violence.”

The Jefferson County Commission recently issued a proclamation commending the YW and corporate partnerVerizon Wireless on their efforts to combat dating violence. The  YW’s Healthy Relationships program, led by YWCA AmeriCorps members Snow Sellers and Kenisha Lewis, is designed to teach middle and high school students the difference between caring, supportive relationships and manipulative, controlling or abusive ones.

Loveisrespect, a project of Break the Cycle and the National Domestic Violence Hotline, offers quizzes for students and parents that are designed to test their knowledge about healthy relationships and dating abuse.

Studies show that violent behavior typically starts between the ages of 12 and 18, and teens who have been in a violent relationship are at a higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behaviors and future domestic violence.

“It’s important to educate ourselves and our youth about what healthy relationships should look like,” Nunn said. “Education is the key to preventing dating violence before it starts.”
 
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