February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. While most students are no longer teens, unhealthy relationship mannerisms don’t stop at teenagers.
Erin Ritchie, Peace at Home Advocacy services representative at UCC, is bringing more awareness to Teen Dating Violence month by promoting healthy relationships. “We have a display in the student center showing healthy and unhealthy relationships (signs). On Feb. 14, I will be having Valentine’s Day tins with heart-shaped candies with our 24-hour crisis (hot)line number on them,” Ritchie says. “There will also be some art activities to address domestic violence. (In March), we will go to (UCC) campus housing and talk about the bystander effect and how to intervene as a bystander.” The tins are free to students.
The bystander effect is defined by Psychology Today as, “(A) diffusion of responsibility and social influence,” in an emergency. The violence grows when people fail to respond to the factors increasing teen violence. As Psychology Today staff write on their website, “The intervention of bystanders is often the only reason why bullying and other crimes cease.”
According to the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women, CSNAW, dating violence is more than just physical harm. Other signs of harmful abuse include aggressive emotional, sexual or technological factors.
Ritchie says, “The digital component (now) comes in a lot more (as) teens are on their phones a lot more, manipulation like texting with peers comes into the relationship and makes it harder to leave an abusive relationship. (Especially) if their friends like their partner.”
In addition to the display in the student center, UCC will also be having more events soon to inform students about the dangers abuse has and how to better help people in unhealthy relationships. Ritchie says these events are currently in progress. Anyone, teen or otherwise, who needs help leaving an abusive relationship can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-779-7233.
In an article from The White House, they recently informed people about teen dating violence and how it is persuasive in America; 12 percent of American high schoolers experience dating violence through physical, mental or sexual abuse. To put that into perspective, America has 15.1 million high school students, which means roughly 1.8 million suffer from relationship abuse in some way.
President Joe Biden has created a task force to address teen dating violence. “My Administration is advancing efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide training for educators, families and community members to teach young people how to form healthy relationships and leave abusive ones. These tools can be found at (CDC’s Veto Violence). My task force to address online harassment and abuse is also committed to addressing ways that technology can be used to cause harm, including as a form of dating violence among young people.” In 2022, Biden also strengthened the Violence Against Women Act.
Ritchie actively is addressing abusive relationships as she recently visited the middle school in Oakland. She served hot cocoa and talked to students about healthy and unhealthy relationship behaviors. She spoke about the messages on healthy versus unhealthy hearts display at UCC to the Oakland students and encouraged healthy relationship behavior.
Abusive relationships have many signs to look out for. CSNAW offers different abusive signs; “Your partner checking your phone, email or social media accounts without your permission, putting you down in front of others, possessive or controlling behavior, any form of physical violence and pressure to have sex.” Anyone suffering from relationship abuse can get help by visiting Loveisrespect.org or at the local Peace at Home Advocacy hotline 541-673-7867 which is open 24/7 days a week.
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