STATEWIDE ORGANIZATIONS RECOGNIZE TEEN DATING VIOLENCE PREVENTION & AWARENESS MONTH | Families

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STATEWIDE ORGANIZATIONS RECOGNIZE TEEN DATING VIOLENCE PREVENTION & AWARENESS MONTH
Families, Health, People
STATEWIDE ORGANIZATIONS RECOGNIZE TEEN DATING VIOLENCE PREVENTION & AWARENESS MONTH

Every year, thousands of teenagers across the State of Maine experience dating violence.  February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month, a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in youth relationships and promote programs that focus on prevention. The Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault are calling on Mainers to help recognize this important month, not only for youth in Maine, but for communities statewide.

Dating violence is “controlling, abusive, and aggressive behavior in a romantic relationship. It occurs in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships and can include verbal, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or a combination of these behaviors.”  Dating violence often starts with what may seem like minor behavior, such as teasing and name calling. These behaviors can lead to more serious violence, such as physical assault and sexual violence.

Teen dating violence is an issue in Maine communities. According to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, approximately 16% of high school students have been hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or a girlfriend within the last year.  This means that approximately 11,400  Maine teens have experienced physical abuse from a partner. This number does not account for the verbal, sexual, or emotional abuse teens also face in abusive relationships.

National statistics regarding incidences of teen dating violence are disturbingly high. Nearly 1 in 3 teens report sexual abuse, physical abuse, or threats of physical abuse.  Almost 1 in 4 have been victimized through technology, and nearly 1 in 2 teens in relationships report being controlled, threatened, and pressured to do things they did not want to do.  Young people across the United States, like many adults who face domestic or sexual violence situations, may not tell their friends or family because they are afraid or they feel ashamed.

“Clearly, this is an issue impacting young people and our communities across the state,” says Elizabeth Ward Saxl, Executive Director of the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, “and these numbers only reflect what we hear about; we know that abuse is severely underreported.”  Julie Colpitts, Executive Director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence agrees, adding, “The ultimate goal is to stop dating violence before it starts. Strategies promoting healthy relationships are vital.”

Domestic violence and sexual assault support centers across the state support victims/survivors of dating violence. If you or someone you know has experience dating violence and you would like more information, please call either the statewide domestic violence helpline at 1.866.83.4HELP or TTY 1.800.437.1220, or the statewide sexual assault crisis and support line at 1.800.871.7741 or TTY 1.888.458.5599.

Families, Health, People