By MARIE NESMITH
Even though Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month wrapped up Feb. 28, Christian League for Battered Women’s officials are urging parents to continue talking with their children about this issue.
“It is extremely important to discuss unhealthy relationship behaviors,” said LaTasha Harris, teen advocate for Christian League for Battered Women, which operates the Tranquility House Domestic Violence Center. “Teen dating violence is a serious issue.
“The more teen dating violence is talked about whether at home, at school or in the community, the more knowledge teens will have. Though 82% of parents feel confident that they could recognize if their child was in an unhealthy relationship, 58% could not properly identify all the red flags of abuse.”
Posted on Tranquility House’s Facebook page, some signs of abuse include when a girlfriend or boyfriend spreads rumors about their “loved” one, harasses them via text messaging or cellphone, acts in frightening ways and monitors computer use.
“Some of the most common red flags in dating relationships are — wants to move too quickly in the relationship, does not respect your boundaries, excessively jealous, isolation from friends and family, says one thing and then does another, constant mood swings, possessive, takes no responsibility for their own behavior always blaming others,” said Teresa Millsaps, executive director of Christian League for Battered Women. “Red flags associated with cyber abuse in dating relationships include using technology to isolate the other person, demanding passwords, using pictures or video as a form of blackmail, tracking the other person’s movement, forcing a partner to constantly text/call, sending demeaning and hurtful messages and more.
“Pay attention to the red flags and trust your instincts. Some of these behaviors may first appear as someone who cares but as the abuser wants and needs more power and control the behaviors become about what the abusive person wants and not caring about you.”
Established in 1985, Christian League for Battered Women currently is in its third location.
The nonprofit’s Tranquility House Domestic Violence Center provides a place for women — and their children — to temporarily stay and work toward future goals, such as securing housing, education or a job, if needed. While residing at the shelter, women have access to a support group, legal advocacy and community resources.
“Loveisrespect.org reports that 1.5 million high school students nationwide are affected by teen dating abuse,” Harris said. “Of the 1.5 million teenagers, only 33% of them will ever share with someone that they are in an unhealthy relationship. It is important for teens to be aware of dating violence because it is so common.
“Being in an unhealthy relationship can be very dangerous and it not only affects the victim but those around them as well. Georgia ranks 10th in the nation for the rate at which someone is killed by domestic violence. Teen dating violence may not be talked about for various reasons but it is happening every day.”
Echoing Harris’ comments, Millsaps also underscored the importance of shining a light on teen dating violence.
“As Teen Dating [Violence] Awareness Month closes, we at Tranquility House are pausing to reflect on what we have learned and the work yet to be done,” she said. “To prevent youth and teen violence in dating relationships, we must foster healthy relationships that makes social change possible.
“This year’s theme is Outrage into Action. A call for change through conversation, lifting youth voices, building allies and trust. We will not stop until everyone of all ages, race, social status knows they are valuable and deserve to be safe in their relationships.”
Along with encouraging parents to talk to their teenagers, Harris shared the nonprofit also is reaching out to local schools.
“Yes, Tranquility House Domestic Center is working with schools and other organizations in the community to help spread the word about teen dating violence,” she said. “Before COVID, we were active with Paxen, The ROC Clubhouse, Mt. Charter, Cass High and Cartersville High.
“Right now, we are at Cartersville High School. Principal Shelley Tierce and the administration at Cartersville High have been very supportive.”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .