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EARLY YEARS: February is National Teen Dating Violence and Awareness and Prevention Month

Family Service of Roanoke Valley’s Teen Outreach Program helps teens build self-esteem and avoid dangerous relationships
Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 6:01 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Savion Stone helps lead the Teen Outreach Program, or TOP, at Family Service of Roanoke Valley.

“We create a really safe and listening environment for our teens to share their expressions and be heard. So, they’re actually very, very open and I’ve had multiple students pull me off to the side and talk and get things off their chest,” says Stone.

Through a variety of group activities, TOP teaches Roanoke area teens the skills they need to deal with challenging issues, including abusive relationships.

But Stone says the pandemic has presented extra obstacles for young people.

“The kids are at home with nothing but time on their hands. I know it’s easy to finesse and manipulate schoolwork and just get it done and have a bunch of free time. But we advise our kids to think smart and stay safe,” he says.

With too much free time, it’s easy to fall into bad habits, like bad relationships.

But how do teens know if they’re in one?

Some signs include:

  • Excessive jealousy or insecurity
  • Invasions of your privacy
  • Controlling tendencies
  • Explosive temper
  • Blaming partner for problems in relationship

“A lot of the statistics show that one in 11 women and one in 15 men experienced some form of teen dating violence. But only like one in 20 will actually reach out and tell a parent or tell a guardian that they feel trusted with,” says Stone.

Those numbers need to get better.

Stone stresses teens need to confide in someone they trust.

Giving them an outlet to express their feelings is one of the most crucial functions of the Teen Outreach Program.

“Instead of us facilitating groups for an hour, hour and a half, it’s us like a call and response, I want to hear what this teen has to say and how they feel about it, so I can get an idea of where they’re coming from and their thought process,” Stone says.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, you can get help by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE (7233).

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