By Wendy Brown, U.S. Army Garrison Japan Public AffairsFebruary 8, 2019
CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Feb. 8, 2019) -- Stan Austin's question about the "Strike Out Teen Dating Violence" event Feb. 6 at the Camp Zama Bowling Center was purely rhetorical: "Free pizza, free drinks, free dessert, free bowling. What more could a kid ask for?"
The question, however, had a very real answer: free information about teen dating violence.
Austin, Camp Zama's Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program manager, teamed up with colleagues to provide students in grades seven through 12 information about teen dating violence, and provided the free food and bowling to help get them in the door.
"Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month occurs every year in February, so what we do is we try to work with the teenagers to help them understand domestic violence and how it affects teens," Austin said. "We know the cycle of violence, and if it's already affecting teens at this age, then it might start to affect them … in their adult lives."
More than 80 students from Zama American Middle High School attended, Austin said, and organizers have another event planned at nearby Naval Air Facility Atsugi Feb. 22.
Caleb Logan, 18, and Taniyh Symonett, 16, are just friends, but they cut the event's cake together and said they had attended similar events at Camp Zama in the past. They are confident they know what to do should they ever encounter a teen dating violence situation, they said.
"I've learned that there's always someone to talk to if I'm ever in a situation or anyone else is in a situation, and you're always supposed to look at the situation from a different point of view instead of jumping to conclusions," Logan said.
Likewise, Symonett said the most important piece of information she has learned is that there are adults available for her to talk to if necessary. Free pizza, drinks, cake and bowling are a good way to get children to an event on teen dating violence, she said.
In addition, organizers made learning the information as fun as possible with a spinning wheel that landed on questions about the subject.
The questions included: "What are some of the negative effects of teen dating violence?" "Does your partner check your cell, text messages, purse/wallet or social media to keep up with who you are communicating with outside your relationship?" and "Who can you report teen dating violence to in your local area?"
Students who answered the questions correctly could pick from items such as candy, a sticker or pen as a reward, Austin said. Organizers also welcomed questions and had written information available for anyone who wanted to learn more.
Amy Trotter, a domestic violence victim advocate for the Camp Zama FAP, said it is important for teens to know the signs of abuse and speak up if they have a friend who is experiencing dating violence or abuse.
Some signs include being overprotective or isolating a teen from friends; constantly texting or showing up at places they weren't invited; or potentially asking for explicit photos, Trotter said.
Teens can find help through the Camp Zama ACS Facebook page or call 263-5398, Trotter said, and there is also a counselor at the high school.
"We're always here for resources and assistance," Trotter said. "We just want to get out in the community and let people know we're here to support the teens and the community."