By Casey Crow
Special to The PREVIEW
I remember very clearly the day I realized I was in an unhealthy relationship. I noticed a flier hanging in the girl’s bathroom at Pagosa Springs High School, one hung by the Archuleta County Victim Assistance Program (ACVAP), showing the Power and Control Wheel. It described the cycle of physical, emotional or sexual violence that can occur within an abusive or unhealthy relationship. I never expected to see myself in that wheel, but I did.
I didn’t think my relationship was abnormal — the lack of choice, the constant guilt trips, regular assaults on my self-esteem and body image and isolation from my support system. If I hadn’t seen that simple flier, I don’t know that I would have identified the fact that something was wrong.
An estimated 1.5 million teens are affected by dating violence each year, and I imagine they feel much like I did. Which is why, at ACVAP we are working to raise awareness around teen dating violence and create a safe space in Pagosa Springs High School (PSHS) to support teens.
ACVAP is now holding regular office hours at PSHS during lunch on Tuesdays. One of our trained advocates is on campus, in the counselor’s office, to talk with students.
For those teens in our community struggling with an unhealthy relationship, it may be intimidating to talk to a teacher, counselor or other school-affiliated personnel. ACVAP seeks to create a space where students can talk openly and confidentially with an advocate who is removed from the school system. Our advocates work in partnership with school staff in guiding students to the resources and support they need.
Advocacy hours act as the first stop for struggling teens. Advocates lend a listening ear, explain available options and direct students to short-term and long-term resources.
Statistics show that one in three teen in the U.S. experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence. Sadly, only 18 percent of teens affected by relationship violence ever tell anyone.
Talk to your teens about relationship violence. Everyone deserves love and respect. Let’s work together to support teens in cultivating healthy, safe and respectful relationships.
For more information, visit www.acvap.org or, for support, call our 24-hour local hotline at 264-9075.