By Cheryl Bowdridge
Special to The SUN
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Most adults do not think of a teen relationship as a relationship that could be potentially abusive; yet 60 percent of our high school students at Pagosa Springs High School reported knowing a peer that is or has been in an unhealthy relationship.
Yet, the Expect Respect website reports that 81 percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.
Maybe you are thinking what do we do about this? As adults, we can start by being positive relationship role models for our children and having conversations with them about the importance of healthy relationships.
Over the course of the next month, Youth Rise, an elective at Pagosa Springs High School, will run several campaigns to have open conversations and raise awareness about teen dating violence. Encourage the students who you know to participate and have discussions with them about teen dating violence. Educating our kids is the best way to prevent it from happening to them.
Week 1: Beginning on Feb. 5 and running through Feb. 28 — Social Challenge. Follow the Youth Rise Instagram page at pshs.youth.rise and post photos of your healthy relationships there, using the hash tags #HealthymeHealthywe and #HealthymeHealthypshs and tag @pshs.youth.rise. Advanced art students will design T-shirts to raise awareness about teen dating violence, based on their experiences or perceptions of what teen dating violence can do to a person’s spirit and what teen dating violence looks like.
Week 2: Feb. 12-17 — Red Flag Warning Signs Campaign. Watch for next week’s article on Red Flag Warning Signs, as well as checking out what the students are doing to raise awareness about red flags in a relationship. Feb. 13 is “Wear Orange For Love Day.” Wear orange to show your support for strong and healthy relationships.
Week 3: Feb. 18-24 — Pledge and Button Campaign: Students will be promoting healthy relationship pledge for their peers to sign during the week and handing out “Expect Respect” buttons as part of an effort to raise awareness in Pagosa Springs about dating violence.
Week 4: Feb. 25-March 2 — Winners for the social challenge will be announced and Talk About Love Event. Students will host a lunchtime poster event where students can write their thoughts about healthy relationships and what they expect from a relationship.
Rise Above Violence offers 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. Rise 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.riseaboveviolence.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. Our Youth Rise class is also a peer leader-trained group to help students in need of support.
By Cheryl Bowdridge