Dating violence destigmatzation

Experts offer advice on avoiding abuse

Sireen Abayzid, Staff Writer

One of the more exciting aspects of high-school life for many students is romantic relationships. However, few teens are aware of the dangers that abusive relationships pose, which has become an increasing concern for many adults. There is a lack of education on the dangers of dating violence, leading to students being afraid of coming forward with their stories.

In the past few years, abuse in younger relationships has become increasingly prevalent. According to the Women’s Fund of Omaha, between 2015 and 2017 domestic violence related arrests in Douglas County rose by 49%. Over 18% of those arrested were between the ages 18 and 24. Another survey by Break the Cycle shows that one in three high school students experience either romantic or sexual violence from their partners, and many students will never speak to anyone about their abusive relationships.

“[Dating abuse] is becoming more and more common, especially with digital and online abuse,” school psychologist Terrin Dorathy said. “[It may be] extra phone calls or text messages or making [their partner] feel like they need to send things that are inappropriate.”

Victims of abuse begin to feel unsafe in their relationships, so Millard schools have created measures to ensure the safety of their students. In addition to the #BeKind program, Millard has a policy that prohibits dating violence, and students are welcome to talk to their counselors about any problems that they are having with their partners.

“We report any incidents to our SRO [Student Resource Officer] [John] Martinez as required by law and district policy,” principal Brian Begley said.

However, adult intervention does little to prevent communication through social media. Cell phones and other devices give abusers the ability to monitor their partners, which they then use to exert power over victims.

Additionally, many movies and television shows glorify abusive relationships and make them seem romantic, avoiding the real issues associated with them. The relationship of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from The Twilight Saga, believed to be the ultimate love story of the late 2000s, was actually very emotionally abusive. Edward controlled who she could see and when and both threatened suicide when the other threatened to leave. Unfortunately, this relationship is still viewed as romantic, which contributes to the epidemic of dating violence.

“In social media…dating violence is kind of sensationalized,” Dorathy said. “If we can’t get [the media] to portray [abuse] in a very responsible way that would be a concern.”

Not very many parents are aware of the threat that abusive relationships pose to their children. Drew Crecente, the father of Jennifer Ann Crecente, a high school student from Austin, Texas, believed that he was aware, and proactively advised his daughter on matters of safe sex, drug use, and keeping herself safe in public spaces. Unfortunately, his proactiveness did nothing to prevent her abusive boyfriend from shooting her in the woods next to their home.

Following her death, Crecente’s father and her grandmother, psychologist Elizabeth Richeson, created a nonprofit organization in Jennifer’s name to aid in resolving teen dating violence. Crecente and Richeson helped pass a new law in Texas mandating that every school district in the state of Texas have a policy on intimate partner violence. This epidemic is far from over, but organizations like Richeson and Crecente’s have made a large step toward ending abuse in teenage relationships.