February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month! I am excited to introduce myself, Megan Gergen, as the new Teen & Young Adult Advocate at the Domestic Violence & Child Advocacy Center, located in Cleveland. I previously worked with DVCAC at the agency’s emergency shelter as a youth and women’s advocate. After a brief time away, I am happy to be back working at the agency!
In my role, I work with young people, ages 13-24, who have, or who are currently experiencing, dating violence. I assist with risk assessments and safety planning, provide advocacy at police stations and through the court and protection order process as well as provide support and/or connect individuals with counseling referrals or services.
So, what is exactly is dating violence? Dating violence is a patter of behaviors that an abuser uses to gain power and control over a victim. This can be through different forms of abuse including physical (hitting, pushing, slapping, etc), emotional (insults and threats, among others), sexual (touching, coercing, any action that you don’t feel comfortable with), verbal (name calling, yelling, swearing…), and financial abuse (controlling your money, social media, stalking your communications). As many as one in five college females will experience some form of dating violence! And young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence – almost triple the national average. What’s even more staggering is that only 33 per cent of teens and young people ever tell someone about the abuse.