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Teen Dating Violence

February 1st, 2021

As 2020 and the Global COVID-19 Pandemic have swept the nation and the world, they have left long-lasting impacts on our communities, particularly disenfranchised communities like Black, Indigenous, People of Color, the elderly, and the impoverished. While we have all experienced immeasurable hurt, there are few who have felt this past year more than young people.

According to the International Labour Organization, COVID-19 has disrupted the education and lives of more than 70% of youth. Distance learning has sent a shock into young people’s lives, even more so for youth living in low-income areas, with less access to the internet, equipment, and a space at home.

It is difficult to express the prevalence of Teen Dating Violence without first acknowledging that our youth today face more risks of violence than they have in most of our lifetimes. Whether they are sheltering at home with abusive families, battling mental health crises, or seeking community in online spaces, it is more important now than ever that we listen to the teens in our lives to prevent violence that many of them could and are facing, whether we know it or not.

According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three teens will experience some form of dating violence before they turn 18. Of them, only one-third talked to an adult about what they had gone through.

Preventionists at RISE, San Luis Obispo County’s Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence Resource Center, said this is something they hear often when working with local youth.

“This month isn’t just for teens, it’s for the adults in their lives too,” said Arti Kothari Allard. “So many youths we work with have seen firsthand how dating violence impacts their friends and say that adults refusing to talk about it has made it even more prevalent.”

RISE offers free and confidential services for youth 12 and older who have experienced any form of intimate violence, with a 24-hour hotline, crisis support, free counseling, and Prevention Education. Like is the case for many other organizations in SLO County, COVID-19 has made it harder than ever for RISE to connect young people to life-changing services.

In 2019, RISE served 184 youth clients and offered more than 900 Healthy Relationship Workshops. In 2020, youth clients fell to 139 and Preventionists were only able to deliver four Healthy Relationship Workshops.

While the Education System was flipped on its head, RISE Preventionists worked with volunteers to create supportive virtual spaces, offering youth a way to connect while sheltering at home.

Volunteers with Close to Home, RISE’s Volunteer Community Organizing Team, held intergenerational movie nights, art shows, socially distant picnics, Instagram lives, and processing spaces.

“This year looks so different for all of us,” said Kothari Allard.”We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and racial justice uprising. We’ve really had to adapt to keep our youth connected because we know that isolation is one of the biggest risk factors for violence.”

Close to Home is a Leading Innovative Program, sponsored by the California Department of Public Health, aimed at bringing communities together to end violence. One of the most powerful pieces of the program is its intergenerational aspect, which is designed to connect youth to positive adults and train adults to form better support systems for young people around them.

“Adults who have been through the Close to Home Program have really learned and recognized the importance of uplifting youth voices,” said Preventionist Hollie West. “Through working closely with youth, they’ve learned to really stop and listen, and to honor what youth say. It’s had a huge impact on the adults and the youth.”

With millions of young people feeling disconnected from their communities, it’s on the adults around them to reach out and create pathways for communication.

“Reach out to teens in your life,” West said. Be a pillar of support for them. Come to them, ask what they need, and provide a judgment-free listening space. It means more than you realize.”

You can help raise awareness about Teen Dating Violence by wearing Orange on February 9th, posting a photo on social media, and tagging @RISEslo and @Close2Home_slo.

At the end of the day, ending Teen Dating Violence won’t happen by just posting a photo or just talking about it during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Find out how you can make a lasting change to support youth in San Luis Obispo County by connecting with a RISE Educator and asking how you can show up for the young people in your life. Email for more information.

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RISE is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides crisis intervention and treatment services to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence and their loved ones. All services are provided confidentially, at low or no cost, to anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability or citizenship status. All crisis services are available in Spanish and English.