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Seeing Orange for Teen Dating Violence Awareness

PHOTO: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to the CDC, 10 percent of teens report being physically abuse during the previous year. Photo courtesy of CDC.gov
PHOTO: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to the CDC, 10 percent of teens report being physically abuse during the previous year. Photo courtesy of CDC.gov
February 11, 2013

BALTIMORE - February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and today is "Wear Orange" day for the cause.

The CDC says that one in ten teenagers reported physical violence in the previous year, and that it's cause for concern because these experiences can be linked to academic problems, unwanted pregnancies, eating disorders and suicidal behaviors.

Baltimore is home to a CDC project in middle schools to teach about healthy relationships. Christina Escobar with LoveIsRespect, an organization that offers dating abuse prevention programs and resources, said parents need guidance, too. One of her tips: Never dismiss pre-teen and young teen "crushes" as "puppy love."

"Sometimes in these very young, very early relationships, you see one partner trying to control the other one through physical force, social media monitoring: they can do it through texting non-stop," Escobar warned.

She said it's also important to understand that the violence, whether it's physical, emotional, or social, is all about control, and is never the victim's fault.

That control factor can make it challenging for parents who want to swoop in and "save" their child from a bad relationship. Escobar said that rarely works, and can actually drive the relationship underground.

"Tell your son or daughter that you are concerned for them, to offer to listen, to try not to be judgmental, and to say, 'You don't have to talk to me about it, but I really think we should talk to somebody,'" she advised.

She suggested an older sibling, another relative, a doctor, or a counselor, and her organization also offers support via texting, online chat or on their toll-free hot line. In addition, they can refer a family to local organizations that can provide help.

The CDC initiative is at CDC.gov.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD