LTE: February is for love … and discussions about healthy relationships – Osage County Online | Osage County News

LTE: February is for love … and discussions about healthy relationships

Dear Editor,

February. For many it’s the month of love; a remembrance and celebration of that someone special in our life. However, for the sake of our youth, perhaps we first should start discussing how we define love, respect and personal boundaries. Even better, what if February served as a yearly reminder to educate children about the dynamics of healthy relationships and how they can get help when someone is being mistreated?

The silent and unacceptable truth is one in three U.S. teens will experience some form of physical, sexual, or emotional harm in a relationship before turning 18, while one in 10 high school students have already suffered physical abuse over the past year.  In response to such alarming facts, SOS continues to initiate meaningful dialogue with local schools, and the communities we serve, to better understand the fears and challenges our constituents face. These conversations give our advocates a welcome opportunity to help teens understand the most common triggers and red flags of abusive partners, as well as how to formulate strategies to protect themselves.

Because domestic and dating behaviors are often passed down from generation to generation, impressionable youth are more likely to engage in healthy or abusive relationships based on their home life or daily environment. When there is an absence of positive influences and strong role models, the vicious cycle of interpersonal violence is far more likely to repeat.

Before the advent of smart phones and the internet, signs of personal abuse were primarily relegated to physical harm. But now in this post-tech world where social interactions are increasingly conducted over electronic devices and digital applications, traces of emotional and psychological abuse are much more prevalent, if not devastating, by giving abusers far greater access to their victims than ever before. In this light, one of the most important discussions parents can have with their children is regarding the risks of being online. Unfortunately, the generational gap in technology usage has allowed many unhealthy relationships or behaviors to remain hidden from adults.

And while these mediums can be extremely educational and beneficial to society when used properly, the digital world is also full of devious schemes, perverse material, and hateful exchanges that can wreak havoc on an adolescent’s privacy, self-esteem, and sense of well-being. The ugly side of social media can take teens down a path that leads to emotional trauma, criminal charges, and suicidal thoughts, especially when there is a lack of oversight and resources to help them navigate these numerous dangers to fully comprehend the consequences of their actions.

Even something as simple as sharing pictures, locations, and text messages with a dating partner or a group of friends can jeopardize an individual’s safety or reputation; whether unknowingly obtained by online predators, or spitefully used against them after a relationship or friendship ends. While many of these ploys and pitfalls are unlikely to cease anytime soon, together we can empower teens to make the right choices for the sake of their future.

Healthy relationships aren’t limited to being honest, trustworthy, respectful, compassionate, and fun. They’re a reflection and testament to who we are as individuals and a community as a whole.  Only by continuously having open conversations about these critical issues, our experiences and expectations, can we give our youth the best opportunity to succeed and remain safe from avoidable harm.

Here are a few more disturbing statistics* to not only remind everyone about the importance of having these critical discussions every February, but every time we’re with those we care about:

  • 80 percent of teens say they know someone who has been controlled by a partner.
  • 29 percent of teens say they have been physically abused by a partner and 54 percent report other forms of abuse.
  • Only 37 percent of parents are aware their child is being abused.
  • 27 percent of teenagers report that they have had a partner track them by using social media.

Sincerely,

Danielle Armitage
SOS Outreach Prevention Coordinator, Emporia
www.soskansas.com


*Statistics from:New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, https://opdv.ny.gov/february-teen-dating-violence-awareness-month; and Love is Respect, https://www.loveisrespect.org

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