Battered Women’s Shelter offers outreach for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
In 1992, 18-year-old Tina Croucher was violently murdered by her boyfriend, who then shot himself. Because of her death and the awareness it created, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in 2009 signed the Tina Croucher Act into law, which requires schools to incorporate dating violence prevention education into their curriculum.
But teen dating violence is still a serious problem, said Abby McGinty, Project Tina specialist of Summit and Medina Counties. “The rates of occurrence are so high with this type of abuse that it exceeds youth violence,” she said. “Violence among dating partners is the highest instance of youth violence in the country.”
For this reason, the month of February has been deemed National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and local agencies are offering outreach to schools and families to help curb this widespread concern.
The problem of teen dating violence has escalated, especially as new technology opens the doors to new types of abuse. “Constant monitoring through text messages, phone calls and cyber stalking through Facebook allow 24 hour access into your life,” said McGinty, who added that through Project Tina, the local Battered Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis Center reached nearly 3,000 students last year.
Outreach is crucial to this mission because a significant number of abused teens are unlikely to come forward and report abuse, said McGinty. “A big reason why teens are specifically vulnerable is because they’re just learning how to be in a relationship.” And because of this, many teens think that harassment and abuse are normal behaviors because they’re so common, she added.
Through outreach, local agencies and advocates can start a dialogue with teens to teach them the difference between healthy and abusive relationships.
Most teen violence starts between ages 12 and 18, according to McGinty. “If we can target these kids when they’re in seventh or eighth grade, they’re so much more likely to recognize the warning signs and be able to end the relationships before they escalate and become more dangerous.”
It’s also important that families recognize the warning signs of teen violence because victims are oftentimes reluctant to speak up. According to Anny Jacoby, a consultant and instructor who works in safety and abuse prevention, 80 percent of girls who are victims of dating abuse continue to date the abuser, and the majority of abuse occurs in one of the partner’s homes.
The site also lists some warning signs of abuse, like isolation, emotional issues, constant communication from the partner, jealousy and a need to always impress the boyfriend or partner, which can be red flags for potential abuse.
The Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties and the Rape Crisis Center provide services to victims of teen dating violence, and both agencies have 24-hour hotlines to help with crisis intervention. (The Battered Women’s Shelter hotline is (888) 395-HELP (4357), and the Rape Crisis Hotline is (877) 906-RAPE (7273).
These agencies also can provide referrals for counseling or medical services, along with advocacy in the judicial system, like filing for legal protection orders in the courts.
McGinty said the participating agencies hope to start a local teen support group. Teens and other residents also may get involved by collecting used cell phones, which are recycled for funds to benefit the Battered Women’s Shelter.
An additional resource for teens is www.loveisrespect.org, where trained peer advocates are available 24/7 to chat online, providing an alternative to calling a hotline. Teens may also text “loveis” to 77054 to reach a peer advocate.
For more information about the Tina Project, visit www.thetinaproject.org.