Know the signs: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, February 8, 2022

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and organizations like Harmony House are alerting area teenagers on troubling signs they need to look out for when dating.

Kari Jones, community educator and prevention coordinator for Harmony House, occasionally visits the county’s middle and high schools to discuss topics such as dating, and help students recognize red flags, or behaviors that are potentially abusive.

She noted that one in three teenagers will experience some kind of abuse when dating and that most parents will be unaware of the abuse.

Teenage girls between 16 and 24 years old are particularly vulnerable, she said. Abuse can come from males or females. She added that the abuse is not always physical.

When verbal, what the abuser says does not always sound aggressive.

“It’s important to know what isn’t good for you or what’s valuable to you,” Jones said.

“As they get older, if that’s the only relationship they remember having, they think that that’s normal for them, so they have higher risks of getting into another abusive relationship that’s harder to get out of.”

Teenage dating behavior is a topic Jennifer Crowder, a Hogansville native and founder of Life Tips 4 Teens, teaches in the workshops she coordinates.

Her strategy, she said, is to alert teens on red flags, but also on how to recognize potentially abusive behaviors for themselves.

“I’m straight forward,” Crowder said.

“I teach boys how to approach a lady, how to strike up a conversation and ask her out on a date, things like that. I tell them that nothing sexual should come up in their conversations, [and] they should keep their hands to themselves. If they ask a girl for her number and she says no, no means no. For the young ladies, [I tell them] your body is sacred. Don’t allow anybody to cross your boundaries and don’t allow anyone to do anything to you that makes you uncomfortable.”

Crowder said that she communicates with the parents of the teens she advises to handle more serious matters and ultimately encourages teens to have stronger communication with their parents or any trusted adult when it comes to their dating lives.

“It still takes a village, and we have to give back to the village because these kids need all of us,” she said.

Jones recommends the following websites for teenagers who may be experiencing dating violence: Breakthecycle.org, Dosomething.org, Thehotline.org, Loveisrespect.org, Loveisnotabuse.com and Joinonelove.org.