Tracy Darling-DeMarcus, Community Engagement Specialist
I want to put myself out of a job. This statement gets me a lot of funny looks. I say this when I present to students for a couple of reasons. First, to catch attention that may have wandered to lunchtime or after school plans, but second because I truly hope there is a day when an agency like the WCA does not need to exist. I believe that by educating young people about healthy relationships and dating violence, these students can be the generation that puts the WCA out of business.
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Unfortunately dating violence is all too common. One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Dating violence can also cause negative side effects later in life such as substance abuse, eating disorders, attempted suicide, and domestic violence (loveisrespect.org).
In the past year, the WCA’s student prevention program has grown significantly. So far in the 2017-2018 school year, the WCA has engaged with more than 925 junior high and high school students in the Treasure Valley. Through our classroom presentations and activities, we discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships, red flags, and how to help a friend. Our goal is to empower young people to build healthy relationships, raise awareness about dating violence, and educate their peers on the signs of abuse.
After going through an activity, one 9th grade student said “I feel that I understand more about how to be safe and look out for others.” Another 9th grader said “If I’m ever in any of these situations I have a source I can go to.”
Though our program is expanding, we aren’t able to speak with every student in the Treasure Valley. It will take all of us to end dating and domestic violence. As parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, coaches, and supporters of teens, it is our responsibility to be talking to them about relationships. The WCA has many other resources available for talking to teens about relationships, from workshops for parents to education for youth-serving professionals.
Everyone has a hand in ending dating violence! Find out what you can do to prevent dating violence for the teens in your life by visiting our website (wcaboise.org) or loveisrespect.org!
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