JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. —
Every February across the United States, teens and their support systems join together in a national effort to raise awareness about unhealthy relationships that teenagers may experience through Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
According to the Teen Dating Violence Prevention Project, TDVAM brings national focus to the issue of teen dating violence, highlights the need to educate youth about healthy relationships, raises awareness among those who care for them and provides communities with an opportunity to work together to prevent this cycle of abuse.
“It’s important to recognize this month just as we recognize domestic violence,” said Maj. Tameshia Tufts, 628th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron family advocacy officer in charge. “Realizing the importance of identifying this at a young age could possibly help prevent things from reaching higher levels of violence in their adult relationships. Unfortunately, dating violence has become prevalent so it’s important to have these conversations and educate ourselves to be able to recognize signs of violence early on to stop these patterns.”
Teens experience the highest rates of assault nationwide. Studies show that approximately 10 percent of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year. Signs of violence can include various behavioral changes, visible injuries and even changes in social tendencies.
“Everyone has the right to a safe and healthy relationship,” said Christine Walz, 628th Air Base Wing violence prevention integrator and suicide prevention manager. “However, 1 in 3 teens experience some form of relationship abuse, and the majority of them never tell anyone. Dating abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, financial status, race, gender, sexual orientation or background. Since dating violence can happen to anyone, it is imperative for all adults and teens to be aware and to have resources to help themselves and each other.”
Everyone has the ability to make a difference. As individuals interact with teens in their work or personal lives, anyone can act on standing against teen dating violence by discussing the warning signs of dating abuse, creating a positive connection to the issue, talking about how the media portrays healthy and unhealthy relationships and also by getting involved directly in the cause.
“Family advocacy is generally known for being an after-the-fact resource, when we actually offer numerous prevention services,” said Treslyn Tolbert, 628th OMRS family advocacy intervention specialist. “Anyone can contact us directly for help. We can even facilitate a tailored brief made specifically for their needs. I just encourage anyone in need to reach out and talk to someone they trust, whether that’s us at family advocacy or a trusted friend or family member. It’s important for them to know they don’t have to handle it alone.”
If you know of a teen or parent who could benefit from speaking to a trained peer advocate, connect them with the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474, by texting “loveis” to 77054, or through live chat at loveisrespect.org.
Tolbert can also be contacted at 843-963-6852/6815 or firstname.lastname@example.org