3/5/2013 4:57:00 PM Know the signs of teen dating violence
The world of teen dating can be a dangerous one, Roberta Anderson said at a Columbia Basin Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Consortium meeting Feb. 21. It's important that teens be informed about their options. In many cases, schools try to handle any problems in-house, she said. Now is the time to get these counselors and administrators the support they need from local law enforcement and advocates, she said. Azucena Deering, a legal and community advocate with New Hope Domestic Violence Services, is going into schools now and giving presentations to teenagers. She is also working on starting up support groups for students affected by dating violence. During her presentation, usually to health classes, she goes over how often teenagers get abused and some warning signs to look out for among classmates. Each year, one in every four teens reports verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse. In fact, 54 percent of high school students report dating violence. Almost 80 percent of girls who have been the victims of abuse by their dating partner continue to date that person. One in three teenagers report knowing a friend or peer who has been physically hurt by his or her partner, through actions like hitting, kicking, slapping and choking. There are warning signs, though, that can help young people know if their peers and friends are in abusive relationships. They also work for a person who thinks they may be in an abusive relationship. Some tactics of the abuser include name calling, physical force, acting extremely jealous of family or friends, monitoring every action of their partner, threatening to do something drastic if the relationship ends, coercing a partner to use alcohol or drugs and pressuring the partner into sexual activity without their consent. Some effects on the victim, which are good to keep an eye out for, are unexplained injuries, a sudden change in personality, loss of self-confidence, casually mentioning their partner's temper or violent behavior and then laughing it off, no longer spending any time with family and friends or becoming very anxious and depressed, acting out or being secretive. Deering will continue to work with the student resource officers in Grant County and she hopes to expand to Adams County, as well. She is just starting up a support group at Moses Lake High School. The students she is seeing, the ones who want to talk to someone about the abuse they have been through or are going through, are both male and female and are from all kinds of backgrounds, she said. She has, for the past couple years, been leading a similar support group at the alternative high school in Moses Lake. She is glad she gets to present to larger groups, however, she said. There is some important information the kids just don't know, she said. For example, the legal age of consent in Washington is 16. So, having sex with people younger than that could result in serious repercussions. Even if it is two 15-year-olds, there could be legal consequences, Deering said. She is also working on getting into the middle schools to help teach the young people, she said. February was Teen Dating Awareness Month, so now is the time to really get through to the kids. The consortium meets the third Thursday of the month at the Othello Police Department. The next meeting is in March and will discuss sexual assault and protection orders.