Students at Whittier High School received a lesson in teen dating violence from officials with Citizens Against Spouse Abuse Inc., Tuesday, an annual event for the school during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
CASA Court Advocate Amanda Davis and Child Program Manager Donna Hirner-Gardner spoke with students and teachers about stalking, psychological abuse, physical abuse and sexual assault during their presentation, which emphasized that these situations can happen to both men and women.
“We want students to be aware of the red flags we presented on today,” Hirner-Gardner told the Democrat after the presentation. “If a friend comes over and tells you something is going on, be an advocate for that friend. We want them to be an advocate instead of a statistic.
“When you’re in the middle of it, you can’t always think straight. If you tell a friend they can help, tell you to call CASA, tell you this is what you need to do. It’s for boys and girls, both can experience these things.”
Stalking was covered and included what most people think of as “typical” stalking — following someone or hiding in bushes near their home or workplace. Davis and Hirner-Gardner also included the 21st Century form of stalking — using social media to send messages and look through photos or constantly texting or calling someone when it isn’t wanted.
The presentation also had information about isolation and degradation, a topic some of the students weren’t as familiar with as they originally thought. When a significant other controls the amount of time their partner can spend time with family or other friends, or threatens violence or suicide if that partner leaves it is considered psychological abuse, something people aren’t always aware of.
“We give information to young kids so maybe we can break the cycle,” Davis said. “They can help each other in these relationships.”
“You don’t know it’s wrong until you’ve been told it’s wrong,” Hirner-Gardner added. “Sometimes they don’t know verbal abuse is abuse.”
Davis and Hirner-Gardner also offered some violence prevention tips:
- Keep a journal of violent incidents
- Save threatening texts, voicemails, Facebook messages, or tweets
- Trust your instincts
- Take photos of marks on your body from abuse
- Make a police report
- Call CASA for help or advice
- Talk to a teacher, friend or someone you trust
- Keep doors locked
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Park in well-lit areas
- Walk with others late at night
“The more we can educate our students with what’s going on, the better off they are,” said Whittier Assistant Director BJ Curry. “Hopefully they can make better choices when conducting their lives, whether it’s being aware about drugs being introduced in their drinks or better choices of who they date.
“It’s good they know it’s OK to say ‘no’ and abide by that.”
For more information about CASA, call 827-5555 or visit casashelter.org.