Focusing on teen dating violence
Kari Ross, Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program victim advocate, talks to students at Wiesbaden High School about teen dating violence.

WIESBADEN, Germany - Victim advocates from Army Community Service's Family Advocacy Program visited Wiesbaden High School this month in hopes of helping students recognize signs of teen dating violence.

"The thing you need to understand is that dating violence is not just a black eye," Julie Wahlers, victim advocate coordinator for the program, told a group of seniors June 4. "It is a continuum.

"It starts out with monitoring who you talk to, monitoring who's on your Facebook, making sure that you can't be friends with someone if that person does not like them," Wahlers said. "It's all of those little controlling jealousy things that can move in the relationship to violence."

Wahlers and Kari Ross, a victim advocate with the program, also visited Wiesbaden Middle School in January with other advocates in an effort to make students more aware of teen dating violence. The idea is to get students to recognize potential problems now before they get older and problems escalate. The program at the high school included videos that addressed the issue of teen dating violence.

Wahlers said one in five female high school students reports being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. The majority of women in the United States who are raped -- 52 percent -- are raped by a dating partner, a love partner, an intimate partner, she said.

"One in four teens in a relationship say that they've been called names, harassed or put down by their partners by cell phones or Facebook or messages," Wahlers said. "Violence really starts … with words - any words that are used to coerce or frighten or intimidate. Those are violent words, and that often escalates into a pattern of violence in a relationship."

Students asked several questions during the presentation, including one student who asked if she should talk to someone about violence that happened in the past. Wahlers said it is never too late to talk to someone about an incident.

Ross told the students they should pay attention to how boyfriends or girlfriends make them feel. "If you dread hearing the sound of your text message notification, or the sound of your phone ringing, then it's time to really rethink your situation and maybe go talk to someone," she said.

Ross also told students they should ask themselves a series of questions. "Does your boyfriend or girlfriend try to intimidate you?" she said. "Have they asked you to bomb some of your tests and get poor grades? Do they humiliate you or belittle you in public in front of the rest of your friends? Are they jealous or possessive?"

Research shows that people who are in abusive relationships as teens are more likely to marry abusive partners in the future, Ross and Wahlers said, so it is important to pay attention to any problems now.

"One of the reasons we're here is because we want you guys to know that you can say, 'This is how I want to be treated,'" Ross said. "And you have to respect yourself and give that respect to other people."

People can contact the Family Advocacy Program at mil 335-5234 or 335-5254 or civ (0611) 4080-234 or (0611) 4080-254. The number for the Victim Advocacy Domestic Violence Hotline is civ (0162) 297-5625.

Page last updated Tue June 18th, 2013 at 08:26