“Love Doesn’t Hurt”April 15, 2009
These were Oprah Winfrey’s words of wisdom to singer Rihanna last month. News of alleged physical abuse in her relationship with singer Chris Brown made headlines, leading to increased media attention about sexual assault, domestic violence, and healthy relationships. I find it interesting that usually the media and other groups focus on the symptoms of a relationship that is potentially dangerous but don’t show how to de-escalate the situation. Instead, we are just told to simply leave. The problem with this is that it may take the survivor at least six to seven attempts before she or he leaves for good.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but we need to be educated about the issue every month of the year. In particular, students in high school and college need this education, because they are at a stage in life when they are learning about themselves and exploring what it means to be in unhealthy and healthy relationships.
Some states recently started working on educating youth about dating violence. In Rhode Island, the Lindsay Burke Act requires that all students in public middle and high schools learn about dating violence in their health classes. This will help students to recognize the signs and symptoms of a volatile and unhealthy relationship and to seek help or leave the relationship. Texas has a new standardized awareness education program, while other states at least encourage awareness education at public schools.
In lieu of information about sexual abuse and healthy relationships being taught at schools, several organizations focus on helping educate teens. In the Internet age, help is only a call or click away. Here are several useful, informative websites you can use or to which you can refer a friend or family member:
- The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline (866/331-9474)
- See It and Stop It!, a website for teens that encourages them to intervene if they suspect dating violence among their friends.
- That’s Not Cool, a website with information about abuse, dating violence, relationship etiquette, privacy issues, and online harassment.
- Youth over Violence, an educational website sponsored by Peace over Violence that focuses on helping teens foster healthy relationships.
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline (800/656-4673) and RAINN’s Online Hotline.
Please intervene to stop violence, break the cycle, and create positive change!