Shattering the Silence on Teen Dating Abuse

Domestic Violence Awareness Month reminds people to take action

Emma Gray, Managing Editor

    “He was checking my phone constantly, telling me what to wear, and what kind of outfits made me look bad. I would go to the bathroom during class and just cry because I didn’t know what to do, I felt like I was trapped,” said Hannah Reid of Montgomery County, Maryland.

    October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Awareness programs want teens to know that knowledge is power. They believe that teaching teens what healthy relationships look like will help reduce the incidents of physical and emotional abuse by their partners.

    The Journal of the American Medical Association states that one in every five high school students say they’ve been physically and/ or sexually abused by a partner.

    “This type of abuse is more common than most people think,” Melanie Blakeney, counselor, said. “It often happens  behind closed doors.”

    Although physical abuse is much easier to spot, it’s the verbal and emotional abuse that is often hidden. Examples of emotional abuse include preventing a partner

from seeing certain individuals and controlling what they wear, eat and/or say.

    “A big misconception that I have seen is that some individuals believe that it is a normal part of any relationship,” Kelsey Eberly, counselor, said. “Another misconception is the frequency of teen dating and domestic violence.”

    When talking about domestic violence, people usually associate it with the males acting violent towards females, but Jenna Layton said that’s not always the case.

    “I think a major misbelief of teen dating violence is that girls can’t be violent too,” Layton said. “It is not always the female figure who is the victim. In some cases, they are the abuser.”

    The most common response is that students should just get out of the relationship when things aren’t going well, but senior Hannah Cornett believes that is not as easy as it sounds.

    “A common misconception is that leaving an abusive relationship is an easy thing to do,” Cornett said.

    The PE department tackles teen dating abuse in ninth grade. Virginia Standards of Learning require ninth graders be taught about teen dating safety, the warning signs of dating abuse, what students can look for within their peers, and what they can do to help.

    “Most students are getting into relationships their freshman year or will be dating in the near future,” Ellen Allen, department chair, said. “The biggest thing that students should walk away with and remember is that they should respect themselves and their significant others.”

    Counselors used to team up with PE classes, but Eberly said that has all changed.
    “We used to teach the ‘Safe Dates’ course with the PE departments, but this year it recently changed and is now taught by representatives from the Fauquier County Social Services office,” Eberly said.

    “We are trying to show students what a healthy relationship looks like,” Allen said. “We want them to be able to identify a healthy relationship and hopefully stay in a healthy relationship when they do begin to date.”

    The community showed its support in combating domestic violence by wearing purple on Oct. 5. The cheerleaders also contributed by creating purple ribbons that were passed out at the football game against Fauquier.

    “We wanted to help spread awareness on the topic,” Katrianna Tapscott, cheer coach, said. “By making the purple ribbons and passing them out at such a populated event, we helped to spread the word about domestic violence.”

    If you know of a situation or are connected to a situation in some way, speak to someone you trust and report it. Please contact the 24-hour Fauquier County Domestic Violence Hotline (540)422-8460 or contact Corporal Tindle at jtindle@fcps1.org.