Advocates, SAFE, shedding light on abusive teenage relationships

Quotable

“I’m trying so hard to get the idea across to them that you can’t treat people like this.”

— Carol Romero-Crossman, youth services coordinator and children’s advocate with Advocates-Crisis Support Services, about efforts to educate Craig teenagers about dating violence.

Warning signs of teen dating violence

• Failing grades

• Changes in behavior or personality

• Being isolated from friends and family by a boyfriend or girlfriend

• Constant texts from a boyfriend or girlfriend asking where the teenager is, what they are doing and who they are with.

• Marks or bruises

Need help?

Teenagers in an abusive relationship, or parents who believe their teen is a victim of dating violence, can call Carol Romero-Crossman, youth services coordinator and children’s advocate with Advocates-Crisis Support Services, at 824-9709. She is available from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Teens and their parents also can get help through a 24-hour crisis hotline at 824-2400.

Where are you?

What are you doing?

Who are you with?

For a teenager entangled in an unhealthy relationship, the stream of text messages from a boyfriend or girlfriend can be constant, Carol Romero-Crossman said.

“They never get a break,” said Romero-Crossman, youth services coordinator and children’s advocate with Advocates-Crisis Support Services.

Members of Advocates and its teen program, Stopping Abuse For Ever, are educating Craig teens on this and other acts of dating violence at local schools in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.

SAFE members spoke to Craig Middle School eighth-graders Feb. 14. The group’s work will extend into late March, when its members plan to make a presentation to the Moffat County High School freshman class.

Teen dating violence can manifest itself as physical abuse, but it also takes more subtle forms, such as incessant text messages or calls from a boyfriend or girlfriend.

In these cases, cell phones become a means of controlling a significant other, Romero-Crossman said.

Teens may not recognize controlling behavior as a warning sign of a soured relationship, MCHS counselor Carroll Moore said.

Students who are new to the dating scene are “flattered, maybe initially,” by the constant attention, she said. “And then after a while, it starts getting old.”

Reported instances of physical abuse among teens is rare, but relationships where one member is being controlled are not unheard of, even in cases where males are the victims, Moore said.

Romero-Crossman said it’s difficult to gauge how often teen dating violence occurs.

“Unfortunately, the teenagers are kind of in a grouping where they don’t really realize that this is going on in their relationships,” she said.

She believes part of the problem is many instances of teen dating violence go unreported because teenagers accept it as normal.

Kirstie McPherson, SAFE member, is of the same mind..

“It’s not something that people come and openly talk about,” she said. “(Teens) think it’s accepted in society,”

If the behavior goes uncorrected, there’s a chance it could escalate into domestic violence when teenagers enter adult relationships, Romero-Crossman said.

Which is why she believes it’s urgent to educate teens about dating violence now.

“I’m trying so hard to get the idea across to them that you can’t treat people like this,” Romero-Crossman said. “It is not acceptable behavior.”

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