Relationships: A Thin Line

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Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.

[Witness for Justice]

February is quite a month for celebrations. 

We observe Black History Month, Groundhog Day, the Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Presidents’ Day, Lincoln and Washington’s birthdays, Mardi Gras and Purim.

Through an article written by Linda Bales Todd of the United Methodist’s General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church on January 27, 2010, I learned of a very important new way to observe the month of February. 

U.S. Senators Mike Crapo, R-ID and Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, have introduced a resolution proclaiming February 2010 as the first “National Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month.” According to Ms. Bales, the resolution "supports communities to empower teens to develop healthier relationships.  It calls on parents, guardians, school and community members to observe February with programs and activities that promote awareness and prevention of teen dating violence in their communities.”

A Family Violence Prevention Fund reports that while dating, domestic and sexual violence affect woman regardless of their age, teens and young women are especially vulnerable.  Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner – a figure that far exceeds victimization rates for other types of violence affecting youth.  Women, age 16-24, experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault, and people, age
18 and 19, experience the highest rates of stalking.

Although dating violence disproportionately affects girls and women, boys and men are also victimized.

Parents and guardians are the primary sexuality and relationship educators of their children.  How many of us have had conversations with our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews about what constitutes a healthy relationship? Are we comfortable talking about issues of mutuality, power sharing, self worth, responsibility?  Are we aware of all the warning signs of abuse? 

The Family Violence study reports that, of the teens in abusive relationships, fewer than one in three confide in their parents about their abusive relationship.

In a multi-year study, called A THIN LINE, MTV and the Associated Press addressed the emerging issues of teen digital abuse, including stalking.

Those of us who were teenagers before the time of computers, cell phones, Facebook, etc., need to be savvy about what is going on if we are going to be part of any teen dating violence-abuse prevention movement. I urge all to read A THIN LINE report. 

Fifty percent of those interviewed between the ages of 14-24 have experienced digitally abusive behavior that includes stalking, bullying, violation of trust, disrespect, and so forth.

Knowing the facts is important; however, having the conversation with those you love is even more important.

And after reading this, if you are concerned about your own safety, I urge you to call 1-866-331-9474 (National Dating Abuse Help Line) and  1−800−799−7233 (Domestic Abuse Hotline).

Remember, there is a thin line between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

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