By JENNIFER BRICE — One in three teenagers experience physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. This shocking statistic is an important reason for the month of February to be distinguished as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM).
The Alice Paul House is a local comprehensive victims services organization reaching out to the Indiana High School community in order to promote healthy relationships. Their overall mission, as a non-profit, is to promote awareness of domestic violence, sexual assault, and victimization in our community by endorsing primary prevention and education programs, assisting and empowering all victims of crime, and providing safety to those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault.
The theme of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is “love is respect.” Mrs. Chris Mathe, a representative from Alice Paul House shared that she feels strongly about this initiative, because it is “a positive message, and it empowers teenagers.”
The movement advocates for mutual respect between partners through practices like consent, trust, setting boundaries, conflict resolution, and communication. Teenagers are encouraged to promote healthy relationship behaviors, as well as recognize any unhealthy behaviors that can be potential signs of danger.
There are various ways for students to be involved in this peer-focused movement. Alice Paul House has collaborated with student organizations to promote a themed poster contest, distribute orange string bracelets, decorate the “Transformation Tree” provided by Alice Paul House with “love is” messages on orange leaves, and share on social media using #LoveIs.
The color orange is symbolic to Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, just as the color pink represents breast cancer awareness, so wearing the bracelets and decking the hallways with the colored messages will garner plenty of attention.
Junior Kira Cunningham is currently co-chairing the awareness events. She says that this event, “has never been done before at IHS, and the school has been very involved in getting bracelets and helping Alice Paul House. It’s important for teenagers to be exposed to this message.”
The combined efforts of Alice Paul House and participating students have certainly created a more open conversation about the serious implications of dating relationships.
As teenagers experiment with dating and relationships throughout high school, their early experiences can be personally formative and socially significant. For example, Rachele Smith is now a senior, and she has been dating her boyfriend, Tommy Arbuckle, since their freshman year.
According to Smith, “The two biggest elements in a relationship are trust and respect. You cannot build a relationship with another person without both of these feelings being mutual.” This successful relationship clearly exemplifies the truth behind the campaign’s emphasis on respect.
[Photo by Brandon Boyer]
Photo caption: “Sydney Jones and Kira Cunningham, both juniors, wear orange bracelets and post positive messages to spread awareness.”