By: Angela McIntyre, New Hope Midcoast Youth Educator
February is Teen Dating Violence Action Month. Why is it important to dedicate a month to taking action to end teen dating violence? Anyone can be abused at any time in their life, but teenagers are more likely to experience dating violence than one may think.
Nationwide, 1 out of 3 teenagers in the United States will experience physical, sexual or emotional violence before they become adults¹. Youth age 12-19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault. In college, 43% of women reported violent or abusive dating behavior².
In Maine, 8.6% of high school students who had dated in the previous year had experienced physical harm from their partner at least once. Gay, lesbian and bisexual students who participated in the survey were twice as likely to report being physically harmed³. With over 130,000 students enrolled in high school in the state, that means 11,180 teenagers in Maine have experienced dating violence.
What does it mean to take action to end Teen Dating Violence? It can begin with talking to young people about abuse and safe relationships. Learning to listen, believe and support those experiencing dating violence is critical. There is no single solution to end abuse. As a wider community, Midcoast Maine must come together to provide comprehensive prevention education and support survivors of any age.
It may be challenging to find ways to talk to someone experiencing abuse, especially if it’s a young person you care about. Starting a conversation can be as simple as saying, “I am sorry this is happening to you. It is not your fault. How can I help?” Respect their privacy and do not push them to share more than they want or to make any certain decision. If they're not ready to talk, focus on staying connected to them. Let them know you care and are available and be sure to support yourself as well.
New Hope Midcoast is a domestic violence resources center serving Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox and Waldo counties. We offer free prevention youth education to help young people identify abuse and safe relationships. Anyone can call New Hope Midcoast’s 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-522-3044 for more information, resources and support.