Dating Violence Education Means More Than Healthy Relationships

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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and highlighting issues that often remain in the dark provides an opportunity to stop cycles of evil. Prevention expert Kayla Woody, citizen Potawatomi Nation House of Hope, believes education is the best tool.

“As a society, we have normalized it,” she said. “We need to disseminate information in our communities. We need to let our parents, teens, teachers, youth pastors, and community leaders know so they can start showing our children what healthy relationships look like.

Woody teaches and reminds people, including young people, that not all abuse is physical.

“We see a lot of physical violence in teenage romantic relationships, but we also see emotional violence,” she said. “We see a lot of manipulation. When it comes to financial violence, (abusers) tell (victims) what to do, what to buy, where to eat, who to date. There is so much variety when it comes to abuse, even with teenagers. “

The cycle

According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1.5 million high school students nationwide have reported physical violence in their relationship in the past 12 months. Women aged 16 to 24 have the highest rate of spousal violence in the United States, according to Woody.

“It’s really those crucial ages where it starts, around 16, so we really want to try and focus on the teens, teach them healthy relationships, show them those red flags. By showing them these green flags as well, ”she said.

Providing examples of healthy relationships and having educational conversations about dating at an early age prepares young people for a partner and to spot problematic behaviors.

“They don’t really know what to expect if they aren’t sitting down with a trusted adult, like a parent or guardian, who explains this to them,” Woody said. “They just have to find out for themselves. So when they get into a tough relationship and they have a partner who says, “Oh, it’s good to do this, it’s good to do that,” and they don’t know any better. “

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 11 high school students and 1 in 15 high school students reported experiencing physical violence in dating in the past year, which can lead to depression, anxiety and others. unhealthy behaviors. Without education, physical and psychological violence can span generations.

“It continues because young people are raised in these abusive homes. They tend to see this abuse as normalized. So when they start dating at a young age, they tend to think of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, that’s what’s normal, ”she said.

RPC’s House of Hope Family Violence Program works to start a new cycle of healthy relationships and positivity for teens by hosting events with the Pottawatomie County Community Renewal. The programs focus on how to spot the warning signs and the right traits, how to end a relationship successfully and safely, and how to approach a friend or loved one who is in a bad relationship.

“It’s hard to leave this relationship when it started off so well, and it went so well for so long, and then slowly took a turn for the worse,” said Woody. “I look at him a bit like a frog in hot water. If you turn on the heater slowly, the frog will stay there.

Some of the “red flags” that the HOH focuses on include control, manipulation, physical harm, cheating, an angry temper, and constant contact to the point of harassment. The “green flags” include an open dialogue about feelings, respect for both bodily autonomy and opinions, trust and equality.

“We want to catch these kids when they’re young, teach them these skills, these signs so that the cycle really ends with them,” Woody said.

LoveIsRespect.org is a National Domestic Violence Hotline project aimed at ages 13 to 26. It offers a security hotline and an online chat platform to speak with defenders. StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential, easy-to-use web resource at strongheartshelpline.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @strongheartsdv.

Find House of Hope and its resources at cpnhouseofhope.com and on Facebook at @cpnhouseofhope.


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