VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
February is nationally recognized as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The 30th Medical Group Family Advocacy has started its campaign to encourage schools, community-based organizations, parents and teens to come together to prevent teen dating violence.
According to a recent national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend at least once within the past year. In addition, 1 in 10 teens reported they had been kissed, touched, or physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to at least once by someone they were dating. While these numbers might seem alarming to most people, the issue is not surprising to teachers, school counselors, and mental health professionals.
“We are seeing a rise in behaviors as early as 10, 11, and 12 years old,” said Capt. Nicolae Seri, 30th Medical Operations Squadron family advocacy officer. “Even seemingly innocent games such as truth or dare can put young teens in situations where they are forced to hug, touch, or kiss another youth when they don’t really want to. This creates a belief that people, even children, are not allowed to draw their own personal boundaries and could perpetuate more aggressive behaviors down the road.”
Parents are encouraged to have discussions with their kids about what personal boundaries are and how to handle peer-pressure appropriately. The availability of technology and social media may place teens at higher risk for being bullied, sexually harassed, or stalked by a dating partner.
When people hear the word “teen dating violence” they might automatically assume it only relates to physical behaviors, but that’s not the case at all. Unhealthy relationships can include online stalking and harassment, using hurtful comments to put someone down, or controlling a partner by using fear or intimidation. All of these are equally harmful for a teen’s developing self-esteem and could have long term consequences.
Teachers, school counselors, and administrators are also raising awareness in their schools by being proactive and implementing policies that ensure student safety.
“Sometimes we aren’t aware of the issues teens are up against because they are reluctant to talk to teachers or counselors about it,” said Kari Rosson, Cabrillo High School health education teacher. “Instead, we’ll host open discussions such as how to avoid high-risk behaviors, and we emphasize our Zero Tolerance Policy at the school.”
Rosson adds that the school is always open to having guest speakers from the community speak on various topics that affect teens and continue to partner with Vandenberg to address issues related to teen dating violence.
Family Advocacy Program will be hosting several events throughout February to address teen dating violence.
For more information on Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, visit LoveIsRespect.org or TeenDVMonth.org.
For more information Family Advocacy Program events, contact 805-606-8217.