February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Close to 1.5 million American high school students a year experience physical abuse from someone they are dating.  February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month.

Amerigroup, Hope Harbour, The Sexual Assault and Support Center, and Columbus Regional Health joined together to discuss teen dating violence awareness Thursday night at the Columbus Public Library.  Experts talked to teens and parents about the issues and red flags of teen dating violence.

Tiarra Williams works for Hope Harbour, a domestic violence shelter.

“I’ve experienced it as a teen myself.  I’ve known a lot of other people who’ve experienced it, but feel like they’re alone.  They don’t have anyone to come and talk to so, I just want to make sure that everyone knows that you’re not alone and there is help,” Williams said.

A victim of teen dating violence herself, Williams says she became a survivor when she learned of her worth.

“It was a self-esteem issue so, once I learned to love myself and knowing that loving myself is more important than anyone else and that’s how I kind of grasped it,” she explained.

Kyle Bair with the Sexual Assault Support Center says part of the issue with teen dating violence is identifying what those behaviors are in an unhealthy relationship.

“If you go into group and ask them ‘do you think that violence is a problem among your age group?’  The majority of them won’t raise their hands.  Once you describe their behaviors, and ask them again how many are experiencing it, they start to raise their hands,” she said.

According to the Georgia Legal Services Program, Georgia has one of the highest teen dating violence rates in the country.

“90 percent of our clients were victims of were victims as a teen so, that’s why it’s important to raise awareness for teen dating violence so, they would not grow up and still be in these situations as an adult,” Williams said.

There will be events going on to promote awareness throughout the month of February.

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