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Letter: February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

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It has been two years since 19 year old Siobhan Russell was found brutally stabbed to death by her 17-year-old boyfriend in Oak Hill, Va. In 2010, Siobhan's abuser was arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison. After living through this horrific event, Siobhan's mother was determined to do all that she could to prevent other acts of abuse and violence. She now runs an organization to raise awareness about teen dating violence, where she speaks to communities about the warning signs of dating violence. She is an example for us all.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month and it is critical that we take this time to remember that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults. One in three adolescents in the U.S. will be a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Nearly 80 percent of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. And two-thirds of teens who are in an abusive relationship don’t tell anyone about the abuse. It's time to shine a light on this issue.

Recognizing abuse in a relationship can be difficult, especially for teens. There are many types of abuse that young people may believe are normal in a relationship. Even though teen relationships may be different from adult relationships, teens can experience the same types of abuse. Teens also face unique obstacles if they decide to get help. They may not have money, transportation or a safe place to go. They may also have concerns about confidentiality with many adults obligated to make reports to police, parents and/or child protective services.

But, teens have a right to safe and healthy relationships. We should take the lead in raising awareness and preventing teen dating violence. There are many ways that we can take part. Take the time to educate yourself and others about teen dating violence. The following websites offer information about teen dating violence and what you can do to help:

www.breakthecycle.org

www.loveisrespect.org

www.thesafespace.org

Like Siobhan's mother, you can make a difference.

The General Federation of Women's Clubs, Morris Students Club

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