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

17-year-old Amillio Haupt says the Teen Outreach Program has given him more self confidence.
17-year-old Amillio Haupt says the Teen Outreach Program has given him more self confidence.(WDBJ)
Published: Feb. 18, 2020 at 11:13 AM EST
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"Every teen deserves to be safe. And sometimes we don't realize how prevalent teen dating violence is in the schools," says Family Service of Roanoke Valley Youth Development Specialist Cory Simmons.

It's all too prevalant.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly one out of every 11 girls, and about one in every 15 high school students reported having experienced physical dating violence in the last year.

It's not just physical abuse.

There's also mental and emotional abuse, along with stalking and controlling behavior.

"There's a lot of reports of partners controlling them, or going into their social media accounts and really dictating who they can talk to and who they cannot talk to," says Simmons.

As a youth development specialist, Simmons tries to get kids to talk to him about what's bothering them.

"We're a friend to them. We try to educate them on different things and strengthen their support system."

Part of that support is offered through the Teen Outreach Program, or TOP. Through leadership and community service- based activities, it helps teens avoid risky behavior, including teen dating violence.

About 300 teens are in the program, including 17-year-old Amillio Haupt.

"For me, it's like they help with just understanding ourselves a little bit more and just digging deep," says Haupt.

He says the Teen Outreach Program has helped him with his self confidence, and inspired him to help others.

Haupt has advice for teens who might find themselves in a bad dating situation.

"I guess just to not be scared of just telling people you trust and getting their help. Not to be afraid. Just know that your family, your true friends love you for who you are and if you're in an abusive relationship, physically, emotionally or mentally, you don't have to change yourself for somebody else," says Haupt.

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