Advocates bring attention to teen dating violence

One in five teenagers will experience dating violence.
One in five teenagers will experience dating violence.(WEAU)
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 5:04 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - One in five teenagers will experience dating violence in Wisconsin, according to Dare2Know, a program working to end teen dating violence.

Alyssa Fahrenkamp, a family and youth advocate, with The Bridge to Hope, a domestic violence resource center in Menomonie, said that teen dating violence can look different in every situation.

“It can be the emotional aspect, which is more of the put downs or embarrassing you in public. It can be physical abuse, which is more of that hitting, slapping or choking. And it could also be sexual. So forcing someone on birth control, maybe forcing someone off of birth control or forcing different sexual acts,” Fahrenkamp said.

Dating violence can affect anyone.

“Teen dating violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, or class,” Fahrenkamp said.

She said part of prevention comes from teens knowing the red flags.

“Plenty of people have friends that maybe are toxic or maybe they need to work on communication. So I think it’s important to be aware of those warning signs in all relationships,” Fahrenkamp said.

Heather Felty, teen program facilitator with Evolving Wellness, agrees that it’s important to keep an open conversation going.

“We bring the discussion to the forefront so that they can become more comfortable with talking about these difficult topics. It’s more about that allowing the conversation to happen and not sweeping it under the rug,” Felty said.

Fahrenkamp said changes in behavior or routine can indicate an unhealthy dating situation.

“Teens can definitely end up behaving differently. Maybe they don’t do their regular activities that they normally do. They don’t talk to the friends that they normally talk to, and they’re more isolated from their normal activities,” Fahrenkamp said.

Advocates suggest talking to teen if you see any signs of this behavior, but the conversation should be done with care and without judgement.

The Bridge to Hope offers free and confidential services to anyone experiencing dating violence.

Evolving Wellness offers a safe haven every Thursday for teens in the area to meet and talk with peers about dating violence and other issues.