February is known as the month to celebrate love and friendships. However, it also marks Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness month, an effort to bring attention to the issue of unhealthy relationships amongst teens and young adults.
According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
However, those who experience dating abuse also know that it is not only about violence. The abuse can be verbal, emotional, sexual and the most recently, digital””which includes bullying, harassment, stalking or intimidation through texting and social networks.
Throughout February, organizations and individuals nationwide are coming together to address the problem as well as the need to educate young people about dating violence, teach them healthy relationship skills, and to prevent the cycle of abuse.
To join the effort, the East Los Angeles Women’s Center (ELAWC) has partnered with local organizations to host informational events in Boyle Heights about what makes a healthy relationship. Through a community forum at Casa 0101 Theatre and a resource fair at Corazon Del Pueblo, ELAWC will offer participants a chance to discuss teen dating violence, share their stories and talk about love and relationships.
“[A healthy relationship] makes you feel good,” said Roxanna Curiel, project youth facilitator at ELAWC. “You look for equality”¦ you want it to be mutual. It is one that makes you feel safe.”
According to Curiel, sexual abuse and dating violence is a prevalent issue not talked about in the Latino community. “It is very important to reach out to a friend or someone in your circle; someone [you] trust. If not, it will become a normalized situation.”
In order to prevent teen dating abuse to become “normal,” ELAWC, the Building Healthy Communities Boyle Heights Collaborative and the Wellness Center at the Historic General Hospital is collaborating on the Boyle Heights Project.
With a grant from The California Endowment, the project will address the issue of sexual abuse and violence against women and girls in Boyle Heights by providing violence prevention education, coordinating training, providing outreach, conducing youth-focused training and establishing an advisory council.
Angel Flores, a senior at Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter High School and participant of the Boyle Heights Project, is bringing awareness about teen dating violence through poetry. After taking a course called Break the Cycle, which focused on the causes and solutions to dating abuse, he began bringing his knowledge about this type of abuse to his peers.
“[People] should end the relationship if things don’t work out,” said Flores. “Or seek professional help”¦so things don’t progress to become more dangerous.”
Currently, ELAWC is conducting a community assessment through focus groups, interviews and surveys to record how prevalent sexual assault and domestic violence is in Boyle Heights.
Community Forum on Healthy Relationships in a Social Movements will take place on Feb. 13, 2013 at Casa 0101, 2102 E. First St. from 7p.m. to 10 p.m. Organizations will talk about sexual assault; victims are encouraged to share their stories. Anyone who is interested may attend, especially teens.
The Resource Fair will take place on Feb. 27, 2013 at Corazon del Pueblo, 2003 E. First St., from 4p.m. to 6 p.m. Open to the public
For more information and resources visit BreaktheCycle.org