In the last of our 3-part series on Teen Dating Violence (Part 1: Sexting and Part 2: What is Teen Dating Violence), we look at solutions for teens who have faced dating violence, are involved in violent relationships, or have friends who may need their help. Thanks, Ella, for contributing such an important article series to us! Ella: The first step in successfully completing any task or solving any problem is always education. You have to learn about the task in front of you, before you do anything else. For the past several days you have read and learned about two issues affecting teenagers across the U.S. right now. If you read Sexting and Teen Dating Violence you can now officially say that you have some knowledge about the dangers and consequences of sexting and teen dating violence. Step one, complete.
But, as I said, it was step one. There are more steps that we need to talk about: the most valuable and life-altering lesson I have ever learned. It is a lesson, and actually, to be more accurate, it is a truth that most people don’t realize until they are well into living their adult lives; if they ever realize it at all. And it is that, our opinions and convictions should lead us to take action and should inspire us to aim to influence the people and the situations we encounter. You, even as a teen, hold within you the potential to do so much good, and you don’t have to wait until you are a “grown-up” to do it.
When I was fifteen years old, my English teacher gave me an assignment that changed my life. He basically told me everything that I just told you and then made me write a paper about an issue I was passionate about. “But,” he said, “in order to pass the assignment, you have to take action. You have to DO SOMETHING to stand up against whatever issue or problem you say needs to be fixed.” His whole goal was to show me and my classmates that we can’t just sit around spouting off about the problems of the world and then expect for others to solve them. We have to take charge. So, I decided to start fundraising for The Joyful Heart Foundation, an organization which seeks to “heal, educate, and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, and to shed light into the darkness that surrounds these issues (www.joyfulheartfoundation.org). For the last four years I have worked to raise awareness about sexual violence and to inspire others to join me in the effort sexual and domestic abuse. Since 2009 my team and I have raised over $22,000 to help Joyful Heart continue their programs.
There are so many ways that you can get involved in improving our communities. In my experience, the main reason that most teens (and adults) don’t get involved or try to change things is that they either don’t know where to start, or they think that the people who can actually make a difference have to be millionaires who writes big, giant checks. But, that’s just not reality. There are so many things that we can all do to make a difference and show others that we are serious about ending teen dating violence.
Here are a few, simple ideas on how you could get involved in preventing and educating others about an issue like teen dating violence:
1. Hang a poster with statistics and facts in your school hallways (be sure and ask permission before hand) and check out thatsnotcool.com for sample posters 2. Bring the topic up/ ask your teacher to bring the topic up in your health/sex ed class. You can use the tips and sample letters on dosomething.org to help you write a letter to get Teen Dating Abuse curriculum in your school. You can also get your parents or loved ones involved or request free curriculum from Love is Not Abuse. 3. Set clear and firm boundaries in your dating relationships, and don’t date someone who is unwilling to respect those boundaries… if someone truly cares for you and is worth your time, they will respect you. 4. DON’T PRESSURE YOUR boyfriend or girlfriend to send you pictures. 5. Turn off the cell phone by 12:00 a.m. The saying, “nothing good happens after midnight” applies to cell phones too. I promise it’s not the end of the world, my parent’s rule is 11:30 p.m., and the texts actually want to see are still there in the morning. 6. Have a viewing party for you and your friends where you watch athinline.org’s documentary on the consequences of sexting, then discuss the topics and information presented and talk about not only what boundaries you can set for yourself, but how you can support one another and hold one another accountable to those boundaries. Check out their PSAs too. 7. Check out 11 Ways to Use Texting to Stop Dating Abuse 8. Last but certainly not least, if someone forwards you a sext, DELETE DON’T FORWARD, and let that person know that you are not okay with him/her forwarding you similar pictures.
I hope you found some ideas that work for you, and that this series has not only taught you something about how to combat the problems that we as teens are up against, but that it has shown you, or maybe just reminded you, that there is so much you can do to make an impact. Thank you for reading!
This article was adapted by Ella from a blog post she wrote for The Joyful Heart Foundation. We appreciate you taking the time to learn more about Teen Dating Violence and reading our series.