February is the month in which relationships in general are celebrated. It’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention month.
The 56th Force Support Squadron Youth Center has teamed up with the 56th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy office to offer information for teens and parents on teen dating violence. They have put together events this month speaking to children and their parents on the issues of bullying and teen dating violence.
“We will be talking to them about what the warning signs in a relationship are and who they can talk to if a relationship has already moved in that direction,” said Capt. Amber Rodgers, 56th MDOS family advocacy officer. “We will also be talking to them about self-worth and self-esteem issues.”
Dating violence isn’t just physical, Rodgers said, but also includes mental, sexual and emotional abuse such as degrading behavior. It can range from name calling to not allowing someone to be with their friends or spend their own money.
“It isn’t just girls becoming victims,” said Sheryl Bush, 56th FSS Youth Center program coordinator. “Boys will experience some kind of violence from their significant others or from friends. The teens themselves are involved in it and many don’t know they are doing it or that it’s being perpetrated against them.”
Some parents may feel that teaching abstinence and avoidance may be the answer to these problems. But parents are cautioned to remember that not every child is taught this way.
“It’s an appropriate method; however, teens may be influenced by their peers who are allowed to do those things,” Rodgers said. “You may not know what is going on behind school doors, on the school bus or when they are riding in friends’ cars on the weekends where the children are not in front of you.” Parents are asked to remember that youth have influence over each other through peer pressure.
“Even if you have a child that may want to abstain, if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend that insists, ‘if you love me, you’ll do …,’ it could escalate into violence toward the partner that doesn’t want to participate,” Bush said. “It may be better to share the information with teens, so they have a clear view and don’t think ‘I’m abstinent, this won’t affect me.’”
With more than 35 years of experience between them, the coordinators recognize the importance of parents learning the information being presented. They encourage parents to attend the events of the program. It may help in recognizing the signs that a teen is in a violent relationship.
“Often times, parents are ill equipped, not equipped or resistant to addressing the subject with their teens,” Bush said. “We want parents to know there are organizations that provide the tools to sit down and have an educated conversation with their teens.”
There will be a teen dating violence awareness and prevention discussion Feb. 28 with door prizes provided by the Children of Veterans Foundation.
For more information, call the youth center at 623-856-7470.