Friday, November 18, 2011

True Love, True Reality

“One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit,
slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

By Toni A. Smith

Although Domestic Violence Awareness Month has ended, the work to prevent domestic violence continues. In Reach’s Youth Ambassadors at Parkdale High School are gearing up to implement the initial stages of their Crossroads Project. The Crossroads Project addresses teen dating violence and teen parenting. At full implementation, the Crossroads Project will consist of an awareness assembly, educational and outreach materials, and an informative and engaging resource and referral website focusing on Prince George’s County teens.

Staggering statistics tell us

§  Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence -- almost triple the national average.
§  Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
§  The severity of intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.
§  About 72% of eighth and ninth graders are “dating”.
§  Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

The Youth Ambassadors selected dating violence and parenting issues out of concern for the dating experiences and choices their friends are making. Research tells us that only 33% of teens who were in a violent relationship ever told anyone about the abuse and a teen’s confusion about the law and their desire for confidentiality are two of the most significant barriers stopping young victims of abuse from seeking help. Incidents of dating violence are happening in their peer group more than adults know. Eighty one percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue. Youth Ambassadors also feel that the young parents they know do not receive enough support to keep them in school, even when they want to be there.

Using the performing arts and technology, Youth Ambassadors will launch the Crossroads Project with their True Love, True Reality Awareness Assembly. The assembly will highlight the warning signs of domestic violence, where teens can go and who they can talk to if they are currently in a domestic violence situation, and information on making better and healthier lifestyle choices.

In preparation for the Crossroads Project, Ambassadors disseminated a survey to their peers in 2010. A follow-up survey is currently underway. Based on 188 responses, when asked

§  if they knew someone who has experienced dating violence, half (51%) of the students responded “yes”  
§  about the gender of the person experiencing the dating violence, almost half (45%) reported female
§  do you think your school/community would benefit from having a “safe” place for teens experiencing or who have experienced dating violence, 68% responded “yes”
§  do you know someone still in high school who has a baby, an overwhelming 92% responded “yes”

The True Love, True Reality Awareness Assembly will be presented in 2012.

For more information on teen dating violence, visit (@loveisrespect). If you know a pregnant or teen parent who is in need of help, contact St. Ann’s Teen Mother-Baby Program, 301.559.5500,

Data from, except where indicated.