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2020 Teen Dating Violence Awareness month campaign heading, #1Thing. Source: https://www.loveisrespect.org/teendvmonth/

Ellie Youngquist, Writer

Every relationship is different, but there is a point when it may become dangerous. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Teen Dating Violence (TDV) is a serious problem that continues to affect thousands nationwide. A report found by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) said, “There are an estimated 20,000 phone calls made a day to domestic violence hotlines.” TDV is described as intimate partner violence between two people, whether it is physical, sexual, verbal or psychological. These forms of violence can leave long term psychological effects on an individual and potential health risks as well.

The occurrence of TDV is becoming more frequent. Youth.gov wrote an article specific to TDV. Surveys done reported, “one in ten teens will be affected by some form of TDV by a significant other.” Knowing what signs to look for is important when dealing with individuals involved in a TDV situation. A freshman girl at the OHS, who will remain anonymous, shared her story of an interaction that took place between her and another individual. She said, “Growing up, people say no one should touch you or do anything to you without your permission. And I always thought to myself I’d be able to say no. But when you’re actually in the situation, things are different.”

Health and Women’s Health Issues teacher at OHS, Ms. Ann Christensen, has seen the effects of TDV within the classroom. Christensen says, “There are things that they’ve gone through at such an early age, and it’s difficult knowing that it’s going to affect them for the rest of their lives.” Ms. Christensen says the most common “red flag” is the need for control. The initiator will seek control over their partner and seek to isolate them from other connections. This coincides with a pattern involving a student at OHS. An OHS freshman girl shared some warning signs in her relationship. She said, “He got jealous about everything. If he saw or heard I was hanging out with one of my other guy friends he would get super upset. He would end things for a while then apologize and try to make it seem like it was my fault.”

This issue reaches all groups of people. A study conducted by the National Institute of Justice with 1,525 Latino teens ranging from the age of 12 to 18 found that “19.5% reported having some form of a DV action take place in the past year.”  It’s not just females who are at risk either. One in 15 male high school students reported having experienced physical violence with their significant other in the last year. Most people overlook the fact that men are at an equal risk of TDV as females. This is why it can be hard for a man to talk about a TDV account, there is a fear of judgment preventing many from speaking up.

I think it’d be more beneficial for even parents, schools or doctors to just talk about it more, just to prepare people. Because it’s all different when things are happening, and that’s what people don’t know.”

Bringing this ongoing problem to attention and spreading awareness as far as how frequent it is occurringーeven at Owatonna High Schoolーcan be an important first step to breaking down the silence forced upon many. The freshman girl ended with, “I think it’d be more beneficial for even parents, schools or doctors to just talk about it more, just to prepare people. Because it’s all different when things are happening, and that’s what people don’t know.” After telling her parents about the situation, she feels as though she is in a better position, saying, “They’re really understanding about everything. I don’t feel judged and they are there supporting me.” Seeking professional help is the best case in any scenario. The sooner action can be taken, the sooner help can be received.

It is important to support anyone that may be experiencing TDV. Never blame someone for actions that were done by another. It is important to offer support and guidance and help them to get back into normality. Christensen says, “Be there for the person. Be there even though they may push you aside because down the line they will need you.” Enforce the importance of seeking help and continue to work with them until they receive help they need. The 2020 Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month’s campaign theme is “#1Thing.” By learning just one new thing about TDV and spreading the word about this nationwide problem, more people can begin spreading awareness about TDV, and stop it before it starts. If someone believes they are in a TDV situation, find a trusted adult to tell or seek help from one of the councilors at the OHS.