Letters to the Editor

The problem is common among teens and needs to be talked about

Not my kid. This is often what parents tell me when they think about domestic violence. They tell me that it wouldn’t happen to their daughter because she is way too feisty. They say it couldn’t happen to their little girl because she wouldn’t stand for being coerced into doing something she didn’t want to do. And then I talk to the parents who are shocked to one day find their strong, brave teen in a situation where she has been verbally abused, coerced into a sexual act or shoved by someone she thought loved her.

We need to change our perception of domestic violence just like we changed our perception of addiction. Addiction doesn’t only afflict the man living under the bridge suffering from severe alcoholism, nor does domestic violence only look like a timid woman with a black eye. Abuse is one in three teens say they are text messaged up to 30 times an hour by a partner or ex-partner inquiring where they are, what they are doing or who they are with. Abuse is 17 percent of teens reporting that a boyfriend/girlfriend has made them afraid to not respond to a call, email message or text because of what he/she might do. Abuse is 40 percent of girls 14 to 17 saying they know someone their own age who has been beaten or hit by their boyfriend.

How do we teach our youth the breadth and width of what abuse looks like? How do we allow men to have a voice in also being victims of domestic violence and a space to know they are not alone? How do we begin to change the culture of normalizing and minimizing emotional abuse? We start to talk about it, with each other and with our kids. We raise the awareness of what relationship abuse is, beyond physical violence. It is the only way our kids will see it if it shows up in their lives.

In March the DoVE Project is hosting a one-day workshop for teens to help youth know the warning signs of dating abuse and then have an opportunity to educate classmates. If your teen is not attending, at least use this DoVE offering as an excuse to open the conversation of dating abuse. Having the conversation is the first step in preventing abuse.

— Yvonne-Monique Zick

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