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Dating violence high amongst teens

LaGRANGE – One out of three teens will experience some type of dating violence in a relationship before they are adults.

According to Loveisrespect.org and Michele Bedingfield, executive director of Harmony House, the abuse can come in many forms: physical, sexual, mental and emotional.

“It might be the abuser in the relationship is constantly jealous and needy. They demand their partner do things, or must always be around them. It’s all about control,” said Bedingfield. ” For some teenagers, this might be their first ‘love,’ and it’s sweet and exciting. But they need to know it’s not okay to give their boyfriend or girlfriend the password to their cell phone. Teens need to set healthy boundaries in the relationship from the start.”

Harmony House, a state-certified emergency shelter and organization for victims of domestic violence, presents a special program on dating awareness specifically for teens. The group has spoken to students and parents at the Boys & Girls Club of West Georgia, Teen Maze and inside ninth-grade classrooms within the Troup County School System.

“Teen dating violence is in Troup County,” said Bedingfield. “We talk about teen drug abuse, the pregnancy rate and gangs. But every single one of those issues can have dating violence within them. A teen might spike another teen’s drink to get them high …  we need to level education on all those issues.”

The non-profit organization will be ramping up its efforts with a new campaign set to launch later this month. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Bedingfield said one of their goals is to show students – and parents – some of the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship.

“Isolation within teens is where the boyfriend or girlfriend is pulled away from their core group of friends and is not ‘allowed’ to spend time with them,” explained Bedingfield. “Along with that, a teen’s habits, hobbies or interests may suddenly change, they may dress differently and become so attached to their phone they become panicked if they miss a text or call from their significant other.”

Girls can be an abuser in a relationship too, Bedingfield added.

Dating violence among teens also includes young adults and youths ranging in age from 19 to 11 years old.

“Tonight I’m speaking to Girl Scout Troup. They’re in sixth grade,” said Bedingfield. ” It’s never too early to talk to girls about this (dating violence) … “Healthy relationships in summary will launch into healthy choices in general.

“The more awareness there is, the more people are going to stand up and do the right thing,” she added.

Anyone wanting to learn more about teen dating violence can visit the Harmony House website at www.harmonyhousega.org.

People can also learn about a nationwide movement against teen dating violence at www.Loveisrespect.org or www.Nomore.org.