Local resources aim to help teens, young adults most affected by domestic violence | #schoolsaftey

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) – As we enter the third week of October, a month nationally recognized as domestic violence awareness month, we’re taking a closer look at one group affected the most, teenagers and young adults.

“You’re still growing, even as an adult,” said Shelby Hogan, a Ware High School junior. “You’re still learning new things. You may not know that it’s happening. It might be your first relationship, you have no idea that its domestic violence is.”

Ware High School’s domestic violence taskforce is made up of twenty students, Shelby and Abby are two of them.

“I decided to get involved in the domestic violence taskforce because to bring awareness to everybody in the school about what a healthy relationship is and what an unhealthy relationship is and to help people that may be really struggling,” explained Abby McQuaid, a Ware High School junior.

Statistics show teenagers fall within the most vulnerable demographic to experience domestic violence from an intimate partner.

“The goal is to just let kids know that if you’re not in a healthy relationship, maybe you should change some things or talk with your partner,” added McQuaid. “Even if you are in a healthy relationship, keep it healthy and don’t bring unhealthy issues or anything else into your relationship.”

Dan Orszulak created the taskforce for students at the high school and on October 15, they held a walk to honor victims.

“I think its just important to open their eyes that they go through things,” expressed Orszulak. “They’re going through their first relationships, and those types of things so they might not know what normal is so it kind of opens their eyes to that.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 12 high school students who were dating within 12 months of the survey reported experiencing physical or sexual dating violence.

“Honestly, it kind of surprises me, but also it doesn’t,” noted McQuaid. “In our high school, I can kind of see people that do have relationships that I personally would not agree with because you can see it from the outside view, it’s not exactly healthy. But there definitely are relationships that I see that are healthy.”

A survivor of domestic violence spoke with Western Mass News on the condition her identity not be revealed, she said her first assault came at a young age.

After a lifetime of healing, she has advice for young victims.

“My first incident of that, I was in my… I was 18/19 years old, so I would say report it, try to get away if you can, but don’t lose hope in yourself,” said a domestic violence survivor. “Keep reaching out to somebody until someone has the avenue to help you. Sometimes your parents may not be the right person. Maybe it’s not your actual blood family. It could be a stranger, it could be a person in a counseling place, your school counselors, anybody, the police station, you will find someone.”

Getting away from an abuser is always easier said than done.

Carmen Nieves, from Holyoke’s Alianza Domestic Violence Services, told Western Mass News about the hurdles she sees for teenagers and young adults.

“With that population, homelessness, behavioral concerns, substance misuse, and not having enough resources,” explained Nieves. “It is very difficult for a 19-year-old to pick up and go somewhere else. And again, there are no resources. Very little resources.”

Nieves also attributes the use of social media and increased communication to higher rates of domestic violence in young adults.

Still, speaking about your experiences is the first step at curbing the crisis.

“They may look at you like you’ve got five heads but just keep speaking,” added one survivor. “Get it out, don’t internalize it and get it out.”

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can call the national hotline at 800-799-7233 for help.

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