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Our Turn: Violence is Not Inevitable: The Way We Treat Each Other Matters

The first time I was in an abusive relationship, I was 8 years old. My friend punched my arm hard enough to leave a large purple bruise. I shrugged it off thinking, because I had angered my friend, the punch was a natural consequence. But my mother, who noticed the bruise when I was bathing, was very upset! She carefully explained to me that no one deserves to be hit because of their actions.

The way we treat each other matters. Young people in relationships are especially vulnerable to the messages about relationships all around them. They pay attention to family relationships, movies and other media, and observe developing relationships through school and other activities. It is never too early to talk with our youth about healthy relationships.

One in three teens will experience some form of abuse from someone they are in a relationship with before the age of 18. This effects millions of young people in the U.S. each year, either in person or through technology/online, and it is PREVENTABLE.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. By encouraging young people to have healthy relationships, starting with friendships and family relationships, we can move the needle from prevalent to prevention. Through encouraging dialogue about relationship health, we can help end the normalization of harmful relationship behaviors. Teasing, pushing, pressuring into activities, and intense or too frequent calls/messages often get normalized as typical dating behaviors, but they can develop into more harmful and even violent or abusive behaviors.

By recognizing harmful behaviors, and helping young people talk about their relationships (even their friendships) we can help end Teen Dating Violence. Look out for: signs of physical violence, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, or shoving; sexual violence, including forcing a partner to participate in a sex act; emotional/verbal abuse, such as name-calling, put-downs, threats, or insults; and stalking, including repeated unwanted or threatening calls or messages, or showing up uninvited at places.

If you or someone you know is experiencing anything like this, or anything that makes you feel alone/scared, call or text us. Turning Points Network is here to help. You can also visit: loveisrespect.org or joinonelove.org for resources to start a conversation with the young people in your life.

OUR TURN is a public service series by Turning Points Network (TPN) serving all of Sullivan County with offices in Claremont and Newport. We provide wraparound support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and sex trafficking and we present violence-prevention education programs in our schools and communities. For more than 40 years, TPN has helped people of all ages move toward living with respect, healing, and hope that we all deserve. We can be reached 24/7 on our crisis and support line at (800) 639-3130. Between 9-4 Monday-Friday, we are available on our chatline at www.turningpointsnetwork.org or by text at (603) 506-6553.

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