OSWEGO – February is national Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM), a campaign to amplify the needs of youth and their experiences with dating abuse. This annual, month-long effort focuses on advocacy and education to stop dating abuse before it starts. Uplifting healthy relationships is the focus of the TDVAM campaign and this year’s theme “Be About It” was chosen by youth as a continuation of last year’s theme “Talk About It.”
Dating violence is more common than most people realize, especially among teens and young adults. According to Love Is Respect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline focusing on teen dating violence and healthy relationships, one in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from someone they’re in a relationship with. Additionally, nearly half (43%) of U.S. college women report experiencing violent or abusive dating behaviors. Teen dating violence impacts everyone, regardless of culture, ability level, sexual orientation, or gender identity/expression.
Oswego County Opportunities’ Services to Aid Families (SAF) program is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County. In 2021, SAF served more than 600 victims and survivors and answered more than 6,000 calls on its crisis hotline from those individuals. “Youth in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships,” said SAF Coordinator of Client Services, Stacie France. “Youth and young adults who are abused by a dating partner are also more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences, including thoughts of suicide, eating disorders, and substance use disorder.”
SAF advocates will collaborate with partnering schools this month to help raise awareness. Staff will host tabling events and work with school librarians to make displays of books depicting teen relationships. Staff will also display the Clothesline Project at partnering schools. This project is a national campaign in which those affected by abuse and violence decorate T-shirts displaying messages that reflect the long-lasting impact of violence on their lives.
Teen dating violence is an issue that impacts everyone, not just teems, but their parents, teachers, friends, and communities. “Everyone can make a difference by reaching out to young people in simple ways,” said France. “Discuss the warning signs of dating abuse and stress that a relationship can be unhealthy even if there is no physical violence. Talk about the characteristics of healthy teen relationships, not just abusive ones. And use examples from popular movies, TV shows, commercials, and books to talk about whether a relationship is healthy or unhealthy.”
If a person or someone they know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking, call SAF’s Crisis Hotline at (315) 342-1600. The hotline is available 24 hours a day and is free and confidential. SAF is the domestic violence and rape crisis program for Oswego County and has provided crisis, supportive, advocacy and educational services throughout Oswego County for more than 40 years.
OCO, Inc. is a private, non-profit agency that has been supporting communities throughout Oswego County since 1966. OCO helps lift people out of poverty through more than 50 human service programs that serve over 15,000 people each year. For more information, visit www.oco.org.
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