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Letter | Domestic Violence Awareness month
The movement against domestic violence began years ago by offering shelter to victims and their children. Services to victims continue to be critical to ending the violence. In addition, a concentrated effort is now focused on prevention — stopping the violence before it begins. Given that one in three teens has experienced some kind of abuse (physical, emotional or verbal) in their dating relationships, we have some work to do.
Prevention efforts center on teaching teens about healthy relationships. While health classes in schools might address healthy relationships and dating violence, the most influential teachers of children are their parents. So what can parents do to help prevent their children from being a victim or a perpetrator of dating violence?
1. Model healthy behavior in your relationships. Our children follow our lead and actually grow up to be a lot like us. If your relationships are unhealthy or abusive, their relationships are likely to be as well.
2. Talk to your teens about healthy and unhealthy relationships before they start dating. Healthy relationships include mutual respect, trust, honesty, problem solving and compromise.
3. Be available and keep an open home environment so that your children will talk to you about their concerns. When we react with fear or judgment, our teens are less likely to talk to us.
Teens deal with issues today that we never thought about, e.g. online rumors, pressure by a boyfriend to text him a nude photo, deciding whether to break up with a girlfriend on Facebook. To learn more about teen dating violence, its signs and symptoms, and how you can help:
• Contact the Eastside Domestic Violence Program at (425) 746-1940.
• Access websites for teens and concerned adults:
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474.
Gayle Erickson, M.C. LMHC
Mercer Island Youth and Family Services