TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Every February, young people and their loved ones join together to bring awareness about the issues related to teen dating violence. The month-long Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month campaign focuses on education to end the abuse before it starts.
Ali Kern, Family Advocacy intervention specialist, said teen dating violence is prevalent, but is seldom talked about. That’s when Tinker Talks stepped in to get the dialogue started.
“This is a big month for us as far as making sure people are aware of teen dating violence and making sure there is education and resources available for parents and their teens,” she said.
Teens who experience dating abuse are subject to long term consequences like alcoholism, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and violent behaviors.
“Statistics show that 1 in 3 teens will experience some sort of abuse before they reach adulthood,” she said. “That abuse can be physical, sexual or emotional.”
Kern said it can sometimes be hard for parents to see the signs of possible abuse because the teenage years can be difficult for everyone, especially the teens themselves.
“Teens are tricky in the sense that they are in that phase of self-exploration, trying to figure out their identity and who they are,” Kern said. But, parents can look for specific signs such as not being allowed to meet their child’s boy or girlfriend, if the teen isolates themselves from family or friends or if they become secretive about letting their parents see their cellphone.
Kern said the most important thing parents can do as far as looking for signs of violence their children may be experiencing comes through building a solid relationship.
“It’s important to know your kids and talk to your kids and have that open communication with them, without judgement or fear of repercussions,” she said.
Kern said the best part of her job centers around prevention and outreach.
“I think if we can get ahead of the game as far as education and educating people about maltreatment or preventing it, I would love to be put out of a job,” she said.
Resources are available to learn more about combating teen dating violence. Visit loveisrespect.org, text LOVEIS to 22522 or call 1.866.331.9474. You can also visit teendvmonth.org or call the Tinker Family Advocacy Program at 405-582-6604.