Local organization tackles teen dating violence

By Kimberly Holmes – bio | email

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19)  - This week, thousands across the nation took time out to put a face on the ugly issue of teen dating violence and to figure out how to stop it.

Some teenagers say it's easy to spot a healthy relationship.

"Communication," said Remaile Ferrell, 16. "Good communication and trust."

And other young people say it's even easier to spot an unhealthy relationship.

"If a man hits a woman, or if a woman hits a man," said Taylor Posey, 14. "It's wrong both ways."

Still, domestic abuse advocates said many more young men and women don't know the difference.

"They will tell me, 'no that's not a problem.'" said Kristin Smith Shrimplin, executive director of the Hamilton County Family Prevention Project at the YMCA downtown. "That's not violence. That's normal. If he wants to be jealous it's because he really cares."

Shrimplin says teen dating violence is a growing problem; one that now affects one out of every three girls, 14 and older.

"That's including kicking, punching, choking," Shrimplin said. "So these aren't like little fights that people are having. This is real violence and abuse."

So this week advocates across the country tackled the issue. They spread awareness and created initiatives. On Tuesday, teens in Boston launched a so called "nutrition label" for popular songs; ones that often have negative lyrics.

Autumn Abernathy, 16, said the rating systems is a good idea.

"It's what sells in the industry," Abernathy said. "So they say it so they can get more sales and stuff. But really if you do listen to it. It is very degrading to women."

Here in Cincinnati, Shrimplin goes into schools to speak with teens, many of whom are victims. Her group's even gone digital by creating a facebook page called "Love Cincinnati" where young people can watch interviews, read posts, check FLICKR photos, and watch other teenagers' PSAs on teen dating violence.

"We try to do things that are youth oriented so we try not to look at this through adult eyes," said Shrimplin.

Shrimplin says it's all about reaching young people any way she can.

Many teenagers we spoke with say it's easy to say you're leaving an abusive relationship, but harder to walk out the door.

"I think when you really love someone or like somebody, it's going to be hard to just snap out of it," said Adoria Brad, 14.

Shrimplin said adults need to look for warning signs -- and start early. She said parents and teachers should pay attention to what and when their kids text, who they call, where they go, and even their behavior when they're out with friends.

"You can't wait until you think there's really a problem to start addressing this issue," Shrimplin said. "And you can start doing it in some basic ways. If someone's daughter is dating someone, just ask about how that relationship is going. When they go out, do they hang out with other friends? Or do they always have to be isolated and it's only the two of them?"

Attorney General Eric Holder met this week with teens, parents and peer counselors in Washington D.C to talk about the problem of teen dating violence. Holder said ten percent of teens have been victims of physical violence from a partner within the past year.

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