By Alyssa Fahrenkamp, Family and Youth Advocate at The Bridge to Hope in Menomonie, WI
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This year’s theme is “Know Your Worth”. “1 in 4 Wisconsin youth in a relationship say they have been called names, harassed, or put down by their partner through mobile devices. 2 in 3 Wisconsin youth who were in an abusive relationship never told anyone about the abuse.”
Youth stay silent about abuse because they don’t know what to do. We need to educate youth about the warning signs of abuse and tell them what abuse really means.
Abuse can be physical, emotional/verbal, and sexual. Some examples of physical abuse are hitting, slapping, choking, pushing, or shoving. Emotional/Verbal abuse can be put downs, embarrassing you in public, threatening suicide if you leave, or repeatedly accusing you of cheating. This type of abuse can also be done over the internet, social media, texting, etc. Sexual abuse consists of pressure/forcing anything sexual, restricting birth control or forcing you on or off it, unwanted kissing/touching, unwanted pictures, or speaking/texting in a sexually explicit way.
Abuse can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, gender, class, etc. It is important to look for warning signs such as put downs, extreme jealousy or insecurity, explosive temper, isolating someone, and checking/looking through your phone.
As the Family and Youth Advocate at the Bridge to Hope in Menomonie, I can talk to youth about abuse and the warning signs through school and community presentations. I can provide one on one meetings with youth to discuss their concerns. I am a listening ear and their support when they need someone free and confidential to talk to. We can create safety plans if they are currently in, ready to leave, or recovering from an abusive relationship. My teen groups allow teens to discuss topics like this with other people their age.
I encourage all parents and schools to talk to teens about these warning signs. Making sure teens are knowledgeable so they can look for these signs and know who to turn to is vital.
Show your support for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and wear orange on February 9th. Tag “The Bridge to Hope” on Facebook when you do this.
Check out our Facebook page all February for more information on Teen Dating Violence.
The Bridge to Hope text and call line has an advocate available 24/7 and is free and confidential. You can text us at 715-505-3640 or call 715-235-9074 or 1-800-924-9918. You can email me directly at: email@example.com
**Statistics are from Urban Milwaukee: Dare2Know Urges Action, Engages Allies During This Year’s National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month Urban Milwaukee