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 United States will be a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Nearly 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. And two-thirds of teens who are in an abusive relationship never tell anyone about the abuse. Itís time to shine a light on this issue.
In 2010 in the San Luis Valley community, there was a 22 percent increase in the number of victims seeking assistance from Tu Casa, Inc., the sole local provider of free, confidential, bilingual domestic violence & sexual assault victim services. Many of these new victims were teens.
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. But, teens have a right to safe and healthy relationships. Our local residents should take the lead in raising awareness and preventing teen dating violence within the San Luis Valley. There are many ways that you can take part:
* Take the time to educate yourself and others about teen dating violence. The following websites offer information about teen dating violence and what you can do to help:
* 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 encourage them to allow dating violence prevention presentations in your teenís school (Contact Danah Gonzales Theurer, Tu Casaís Outreach/Education Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-589-2465 to learn more about hosting a violence prevention education presentation at your teenís school).
* Know the laws in Colorado. Break the Cycle, a national initiative on Teen Dating Violence, along with the University of Minnesota, has developed a new state grading system that assesses state lawís responsiveness to the unique needs of teen and young adults. Colorado received a grade of C. To learn more about Coloradoís Report Card, visit http://www.breakthecycle.org/content/teen-dating-violence-state-law-report-cards.
Together we can make a difference in our community. If you or someone you know is or has been a victim of teen dating violence, please call Tu Casaís 24-Hour Hotline, 719-589-2465.
Tu Casa, Inc. is a 501(c)3 charity whose mission is to empower children and adults to live healthy, violence-free lives. Their free, confidential services are available in the 6 counties of the SLV, and include 24-hr crisis intervention, shelter, advocacy and counseling for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, elder abuse and hate crimes.