Activities bring awareness to teen dating violenceFebruary 14, 2020
By LEANN BURKE
Teens at local high schools donned orange this week to bring awareness to an issue that on average will affect one-third of them: teen dating violence.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and the orange clothing was one of several awareness activities schools organized in conjunction with Crisis Connection, a local nonprofit that responds to and works to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault in Dubois, Pike, Spencer, Crawford, Daviess, Martin, Orange and Perry counties.
Crisis Connection regularly runs prevention education programs at local schools, and this week was part of that programming. Activities varied by school, but they all focused on teaching teens about healthy relationships, how to recognize the signs of unhealthy relationships and boosting confidence. Activities included wearing orange one day, a third of students wearing an orange bracelet to illustrate the 1 in 3 teens affected by teen dating violence and Chalk For Love, an activity where students drew positive messages at their school’s entrance with sidewalk chalk.
On Tuesday at Northeast Dubois High School, a group of students took part of their lunch period to cover the sidewalks with uplifting words written in bright colors. Senior Chloe Terwiske wrote, ‘Smile” in pastel green.
“Walking into school, if you see, ‘Smile’ or something, you do smile, even if it’s only for a few minutes,” Chloe said.
Chalk for Love is one of several confidence-building activities school social worker Paige Mundy and the Natural Helpers Club plan throughout the year.
“Building kids up gives them the resiliency to be able to walk away from an unhealthy relationship,” Mundy said.
She also organizes educational events to teach students about healthy relationships, and the Natural Helpers are trained to recognize unhealthy relationships among their peers and help other students get help. Most often, Mundy said, she sees cases of verbal and emotional abuse among students. Physical abuse occasionally happens, too, but Mundy said it either isn’t as prevalent or isn’t reported as often.
Crisis Connection also works with the school to offer preventative education programs.
“I think people don’t realize how prevalent [teen dating violence] is,” said Brooke Sanders, the advocacy services coordinator at Crisis Connection. “That one in three teens are affected by it holds true in our communities, too.”
The biggest challenge, Sanders said, is educating teens so they see the signs of unhealthy relationships. Often, she said, teens explain away controlling or isolating behaviors as something their partner is doing because they love them.
To help students recognize unhealthy relationships, Crisis Connection shared a safety planning document with local schools that counselors can use to help teens assess their relationships and plan to leave unhealthy ones if necessary. Mundy said it’s a tool she’ll definitely use with her students.
“It helps them see [the unhealthy relationship] for themselves,” Mundy said. “Sometimes if I see it and say something, they don’t believe it. Working through the survey helps them see it.”
The main goal, both during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and year-round, is to model healthy relationships and to teach teens to recognize the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship for themselves.
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