February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, community invited to wear orange on Feb. 22

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By John Finefrock | Rise Above Violence

Student-designed Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month campaigns have arrived at Pagosa Springs High School (PSHS).

A 3-inch-tall gnome, deemed the “Gno Mo’ Violence Gnome,” is currently hidden somewhere in the high school. It is in a communal area of the school and not in a classroom, a bathroom, the auditorium or a teacher’s personal space. Whoever finds the gnome will receive a $25 gift certificate to a local business.

The biggest event of the month will be Wear Orange For Love Day — Take 2 — on Feb. 22. PSHS students and the community at-large are invited to “wear orange for love” to bring awareness to Teen Dating Violence. There will be lunchtime activities associated with this event at PSHS.

In the first week of February, Youth Rise students completed their first awareness campaign, going around to PSHS advisory classes to deliver physical red and green flags with relationship red and green flags written on them. Some examples of common red flags in relationships, or warning signs of potential abuse, include:

• Checking your phone, email or social media accounts without your permission.

 • Putting you down frequently, especially in front of others.

 • Isolating you from friends or family (physically, financially or emotionally).

• Extreme jealousy or insecurity.

• Explosive outbursts, temper or mood swings.

• Any form of physical harm.

• Possessiveness or controlling behavior.

• Pressuring you or forcing you to have sex.

The gravity and prevalence of teen dating violence is higher than people might think. Some statistics around teen dating violence, according to dvs-or.org, include:

• Nearly 1.5 million high school students in the U.S. experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

• Only 33 percent of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse.

• A total of 81 percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue.

It’s imperative that our local community support Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month because we know there are youth in our community who are experiencing dating violence in their relationship. If you are a victim of teen dating violence, there is help. If you choose, you can call Rise’s youth advocates: John Finefrock at (970) 403-5461 or john@aboveviolence.org; or Kaylee Su at (970) 946-5276 or kaylee@riseaboveviolence.org.

Rise Above Violence is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides 24-hour support and advocacy services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault or other forms of violence, serving more than 350 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 (970) 264-9075 to talk to an advocate today.