February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - It’s a conversation some teenagers avoid talking about with parents — domestic violence.
February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse while in a relationship before adulthood.
Savannah Police haven’t received any reports involving teen dating violence this year, but they also say that doesn’t mean it’s not happening in our community. Experts even say it mostly goes unreported.
“It can start off with the verbal abuse and isolating from family and friends, that’s a big thing. And if you’re a parent listening to this, if you get the sense that your daughter or your son is dating somebody that’s kind of cutting them off, that can be a big red flag,” said Cheryl Branch, the executive director of SAFE Shelter, Savannah’s Center for Domestic Violence Services.
Branch says people tend to think older people or young adults are the only victims of domestic violence, but she says that’s not always the case.
“Last year there were about half a dozen teens across the state that were killed and that’s about half a dozen way too many,” she said.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline says two-thirds of teens in an abusive relationship don’t tell anyone.
Branch says parents need to be involved in their children’s lives and if the parent happens to be in a domestic violence situation, getting out is critical.
“From what I’ve seen especially just among residents here that have teenage daughters, if you don’t do something to break that cycle of violence, your kids are watching and hearing and they’re learning about what’s going on in the home. It becomes their norm,” she said.
Branch says it’s important for parents to pay attention and be aware of their child’s behavior in person and online. She also suggests providing a trusting and safe environment so your teen feels comfortable sharing with you.
SAFE Shelter normally meets with teens to have discussions surrounding teen dating violence during the month of February. They’ve had to switch things up due to the pandemic but still have plans to meet with Savannah area youth on this important issue.
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