February Is National Teen Dating Violence And Prevention Month

Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team is reminding parents to talk to teens to prevent dating violence.

February is National Teen Dating Violence and Prevention Month. Studies have shown that in the United States, one in three adolescents have experienced physical, emotional, sexual or verbal abuse from a dating partner. These teens often don’t tell anyone about the abuse. Studies estimate that 33 percent of teens who were in an abusive relationship reported it to someone.

To raise awareness, the Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team would like to urge parents and caregivers to talk to their teenagers to prevent dating violence.

Protecting teens from dating violence is the responsibility of every caring adult. Preventing teen dating violence and helping teens who are victims begins with talking. Talk to your children as early as you can about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like. Though it may seem like teens should know what a healthy relationship looks and feels like, it makes sense to talk to a child about what makes a relationship healthy and what to look out for in an unhealthy relationship.

If a child knows how to identify an unhealthy relationship, they also can help their peers who may be experiencing dating violence. Sixty percent of teens report that they know someone who has been physically abused. Healthy teen dating relationships are characterized by equality and respect. In a healthy relationship your teen should feel like the relationship is moving at a comfortable pace and shouldn’t feel pressured to do things they aren’t comfortable with. Trust, honesty, communication and respect are keys to any relationship, including teen dating relationships. A child should feel trusted and valued as a person and feel like they can maintain independence in a healthy relationship. While a child may want to spend every waking moment with their partners, they should feel supported when they hang out with their friends and want to have a life outside of their relationship.

Unhealthy relationships are based on attempts to control the other person and can become abusive when there is an imbalance of power and control. In an unhealthy relationship, a child may feel like their partner is making all of the decisions or feel pressure from the intensity of the relationship. The relationship may be characterized by jealousy, manipulation and volatility. A child’s partner may make fun of them or belittle them around others or on social media. Even if their partner tries to play it off like a joke, it’s not healthy. Isolation is one more sign of unhealthy relationships. If a child feels like their partner is cutting them off from their friends or insisting that they spend all of their time together, that’s unhealthy.

Such warning signs may start off small and might be easy to explain away, but they escalate. A child should learn to trust their gut. If they don’t feel comfortable and a relationship is taking a toll on their health and well-being, they should get help.

Often teens will feel like what they are experiencing isn’t abuse because their partner isn’t hitting them, but emotional abuse and verbal abuse is real and harmful.

Tips include:

¯ Be patient and talk with teens at a time they’re comfortable with and in an environment that feels safe for them. Use different modes of communication to begin a conversation, like texting, email or however they prefer to communicate.

¯ Look for teachable moments during TV shows, movies, song lyrics or news events to open a conversation about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

¯ Serve as a non-judgmental resource. Let the teen know the unhealthy relationship is not their fault and that parents will support the choices they make.

¯ Encourage them to talk to a domestic violence specialist or call the police if necessary, to obtain an order of protection. Offer to accompany them during the process. To locate a domestic violence specialist in your area, please contact Accord Corp. in Allegany County at 800-593-5322; Cattaraugus Community Action in Cattaraugus County at 945-3970; and the ANEW Center at the Salvation Army of Jamestown in Chautauqua County at 661-3897. Other resources are the state Domestic and Sexual Violence Hotline at 1-800-942-6906.

¯ Olean General Hospital in Olean, Jones Memorial Hospital in Wellsville and UPMC Chautauqua WCA Hospital in Jamestown have specially trained Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) providers available in the Emergency Department who treat sexual assault survivors and victims of dating violence. At the hospitals, SAFE providers treat victims in a private room and all services are confidential.

More tips on protecting teens from dating violence are available on the state Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence’s website at www.ny.gov/programs/ teen-dating-abuse-awareness-and-prevention and the One Love Foundation at www.joinonelove.org/learn.

Supported by a grant from the state Office of Children and Family Services, the Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team was founded to explore the causes of preventable child deaths and make recommendations to the community to prevent child deaths and improve the health and safety of children in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. Child Health and Safety Team Member agencies include the OCFS Buffalo Regional Office, Southern Tier Health Care System, the New York State Police, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, the Allegany County and Cattaraugus County Departments of Social Services, Departments of Health, County Attorney’s Offices, District Attorney’s Offices and Coroner’s Offices, Cuba Memorial Hospital, Jones Memorial Hospital, Olean General Hospital, Olean Police Department, Dr. Pamela Salzmann, Dr. Leo Cusumano, Dr. Sri Nidhi Ganji, and Ardent Solutions.

For more information about child safety or the Southern Tier Child Health and Safety Team, call 372-0614 or visit www.sthcs.org.