Teen dating abuse is topic of Onteora forum

A “Post-It-Wall,” featuring positive messages can now be found in the halls of Onteora High School. The project was inspired by the Union Square subway tunnel becoming filled with Post-It-Notes offering words of peace and friendship, following uncertainty after the 2016 Election. The trend is popping up in many places, including a recent photography show on friendship at MASS MoCA. Onteora Student Government President and Student Board of Education Representative Gabrielle Raphael (above) explained at a recent Board meeting that the space is designed to invite kind words for students who may need a positive pick-me-up. From the serious to amusing, statements such as, “your heart grows wildflowers,” or “I like your sweater,” and “Promote equality,” can be taken to help anyone throughout the day, with encouragement to leave a note in its place.

According to Break the Cycle, a non-profit organization that partners with the Federal Department of Health, teen abuse is considered a public health crisis of which parents are often unaware. Government data has it that 81 percent of parents have little knowledge of teen dating abuse. “We need to pay attention,” says Social Worker, community educator and trauma therapist, Jill Aguanno from the Family and Child Advocacy Center.

Aguanno will be presenting a program, “Dating 101 — Let’s Have The Talk: How to talk to your teen about dating, violence, abuse and making good choices,” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1, at the Middle/High School Auditorium. Parents and community members, as well as students are invited to attend this one hour program, part of the Onteora Central School Districts partnership with the Ulster County Family and Child Advocacy Center. February is teen dating violence awareness month, and the district is offering up a plate of programs to help parents and teens.

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In a phone conversation, Aguanno noted the program is for the purpose of reaching teens at the early stages as an act of prevention, before it’s too late.

Four topics will be discussed: What the intimate violent partner continuum is and how to recognize where you are on that continuum; how knowledge about a teenager’s developing brain is a powerful tool for teens and parents; the ways decisions can help keep teens on the road of life or cause detours in their travels; and options available to all, whether as part of a couple or as a bystander.

Using this program as a guide, parents are encouraged to talk to their teenage children about recognizing abuse and having healthy relationships when dating.

Statistics show that one-in-three High School Students experience either physical and/or sexual abuse while on a date. Bullying and sexual verbal abuse has become all too easy with social networks and other communication outlets such as texting. The abuse can start as early as age 11, but, it’s pointed out, it is never too late to speak with your teen, especially when they’re entering the college years. Young women between the “ages of 18-to-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost double the national average,” according to the website breakthecyscle.org. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are more likely to experience physical and psychological abuse, sexual coercion, and cyber abuse than their heterosexual peers.

Aguanno highlighted a Website for teens and parents, titled Love Is Respect (loveisrespect.org). It offers resources and ways to communicate on a topic that can sometimes make a teen or parents uncomfortable. The site outlines how to recognize people within the community who a teenager might confide in, either at school, home, a relative, community center, or a member of clergy.

If no one is available or if the victim wants to remain anonymous, Love Is Respect offers a 24-hour a day, seven days a week, free confidential talk line at 1-866-331-6474, or text loveis to 22522.

The site also offers a convenient message chat. In 2011 Vice President Joe Biden a life long advocate against domestic violence premiered the service by sending out the first text. Love is Respect also offers a range of information including how to recognize physical, emotional, sexual, digital, and financial abuse. It also gives information on stalking and how to recognize it, offering ways to reach out to the victim.

On a local level, Family of Woodstock offers information and counseling including a 24/7 text or call line at 845-679-2485.

Additionally on Tuesday, February 28, Onteora High Schoolers will have an in-school grade level-appropriate presentation by Aguanno on dating abuse.

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