Report says Indiana teens experience high rates of dating violence; YWCA working to lower numbers
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and experts say Indiana teens experience dating violence at higher rates than teenagers in other states.
The 2018 Kids Count reports from the Indiana Youth Institute found that 1 in 10 Hoosier students have experienced physical dating violence and 1 in 8 teens have experienced sexual dating violence within the past year.
In Michiana there have been some heartbreaking examples of teen dating violence with the murders of local teens Breana Rouhselang and Tysiona Crawford.
Despite Indiana teens experiencing dating violence at rates higher than the national average, Breanna Gallegos, a dating violence specialist at the YWCA of North Central Indiana, says the issue is not being addressed like it should be.
“It needs to be talked about because kids do date or they do have relationships when they’re not at home and things do happen not under the eye of their parents or their guardians but just having that conversation, having them beware that someone should not treat you this way or you should not treat someone that way,” said Gallegos. “People don’t think that it happens, they’re only kids, they’re in high school, what do they know about dating or dating violence or they’re just being kids you know. It is shocking, but I feel like there’s a parallel with the lack of education being brought about dating violence”
The YWCA of North Central Indiana wants to lower those numbers with a program that sends dating violence specialists to schools in Michiana.
With the sound of a bell, students at Riley High School fill the seats of Mr. Flatt’s fifth and sixth period health classes, but today, he’s letting Gallegos take over the teaching duties.
“How many of you think abuse is normal?” asked Gallegos. “No? It shouldn’t be but sometimes people who are in abusive relationships think that’s how all relationships are.”
As a dating violence specialist, Gallegos educates teens on tactics an abuser will use to gain power over his or her victim and how to recognize abuse which happens in many forms like digital, physical, sexual, emotional, and financial.
“They’re not going to come out and just say, ‘Hey I’m an abuser,’” said Gallegos. “They’re going to start off with wooing you, making you think that they’re a different person.”
Gallegos says teens need to reach out to someone they trust if their boyfriend or girlfriend is abusive. Ig someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship, she says to be supportive, listen, and hold back judgement.
“It causes depression, suicidal ideation, it could also cause anti-social behavior as well as use of drugs and alcohol,” said Gallegos.
She also emphasizes what a relationship should look like.
“Trust! And then what was another one – respect – yes – and then what was the other one? Boundaries, communication,” said Gallegos.
Senior Dameion Alston says he needs to spend quality times with his partner.
“What I learned here today is what a healthy relationship needs is proper communication,” said Alston.
He says a previous partner emotionally abused him, but Dameion hopes this will prevent others from experiencing the anger and sadness he did.
“It was about two years ago,” said Alston. “I didn’t really know what it was or what I was going through till I really went through the backlog of messages and read what was going on.”
It’s a hope that resonates with Breanna.
“I just want to educate the students to know that they do have a voice and that their voice is just as important as any adult in any situation that they’re going through is just as important as any adult,” said Gallegos.
The YWCA’s program is free. Those interested can contact the YWCA at (574)830-5073.