Working to thwart youth violence, dating violence

Wouldn’t it be perfect if hindsight was always foresight?

Wouldn’t we all want to see it coming before it comes?

Wouldn’t we have done things differently had we only known then what we know now?

Where would we be if we had those tools?

This is the primary objective of the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program’s Youth Violence Prevention Education Program — to stop it before it starts.

Reports of dating violence are at an all time high. In fact, a Massachusetts study reported an estimated one in five female high students are experiencing physical and/or sexual violence from dating partners. Additionally, teen girls and young women ages 16 to 24 comprise the highest per capita rate of dating violence then any other age group. Our young women are at tremendous risk.

It used to be that we were taught to fear strangers. “Don’t talk to strangers,” “don’t take candy from strangers,” “they’ll hide in the bushes and jump out at you, nab you forever.”

Scary stuff for a kid.

This even continued on into the college years with “buddy systems” when planning to attend parties and red emergency phones spread across campus in case you were being followed or stalked by a stranger.

Now, we know better. Now we have to protect our kids from people they know. This makes it much more complicated.

Our Youth Violence Prevention Education Program is geared for exactly this concept — to teach kids the red flags and ways to protect themselves, particularly against people they know. Specifically for pre-teen and teenagers, we teach about healthy relationships — what it means, what it looks like, what it should always be with no exceptions and no room for violence.

Violence has a ripple effect. Girls who experience sexual or physical violence are much more likely to become pregnant, smoke, and abuse alcohol or illegal drugs. In addition, over 30 percent of these girls report binging and purging. Last, suicidal ideation and attempts are six to nine times more common among adolescent girls experiencing dating violence versus those more fortunate not dealing with abusive relationships. Prevention is key to ending violence. This begins with the very first relationship a young person has, ensuring it’s a healthy one is vital.

We’ve been given some foresight. We are handing out the tools. We are ending violence before it starts.

The Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP) is a private, non-profit organization supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault through intervention, education and comprehensive victim services.

Studies consistently reveal that domestic violence affects women 85-92 percent of the time. ACVAP recognizes that men are also affected, thus they are provided the same level of services as female victims.