Are you ready to start talking about healthy relationships?

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By Cheryl Bowdridge
Special to The PREVIEW

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Are you aware:

• One in three teens in the U.S. is the victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse by a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds other types of youth violence.

• Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence (almost triple the national average).

• Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behaviors and further domestic violence.

• Only 18 percent of teenagers who are involved in an abusive relationship ever tell anyone.

• Dating abuse affects 1.5 million teens each year.

Dating violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, financial status, race, gender, sexual orientation or background. Dating abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial or digital.

The Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP) will be hosting a variety of events and activities this month to make people more aware of the warning signs of teen dating violence, how to help friends in unhealthy relationships and how and when to report abuse.

As the adults in the community, we have to start talking to kids about the dating abuse. We must let them know we stand beside them and that it is not their fault.

Feb. 13-17 is “love is respect” week. On Feb. 14, we are asking everyone to wear orange to show your respect for love. Please share your photos on our Facebook page and Instagram and use the hashtag #orange4love. Peace cranes will be on display to show that we support love and peace not violence.

We will be doing a public service announcement on Feb. 17 on the radio, TV, and school announcements. Pagosa Springs Dance Academy will be doing a performance at the basketball games on Feb. 14 at Pagosa Springs High School. Proclamations are being signed by the town and the county declaring February Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Please join us in making young people today aware of what a healthy relationship is and how everyone deserves respect and love, not violence.

ACVAP provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault or other forms of violence, serving over 400 victims each year.

ACVAP also works to eliminate violence through education for youth and our community. All programs and services are free and confidential, including emergency prevention education and empowerment programs.

Visit www.acvap.org for more information or call 264-9075 to talk to an advocate today. Or, if you want to be part of the team to help those involved, volunteers for advocacy are always needed and welcomed.