Editor’s Note: This column was written by Tiffany Greco, of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.

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Written by Tiffany Greco:

Love is many things; abuse is not one of them.  February is nationally recognized as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  It is important that when we talk about domestic violence we do not forget to include teens and young adults.  Abuse in teen relationships is more common than we think.  For example, as many as 1 in 3 individuals report experiencing some kind of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse in a relationship before adulthood.

While it is not always easy to talk with teens about dating, much less dating abuse, it is critical that we do so in a consistent and ongoing manner.  Teens who openly communicate with adults about relationships in their lives more easily recognize and respond to abuse in their own relationships as well as those of friends.

You can start the conversation by talking to teens about their rights in dating relationships.  Gaining an awareness of our rights empowers us to set boundaries.  Boundaries help us to give and expect respect.   Let the teens in your life know they have the right to:

  • Be safe and respected.
  • Choose who they do and do not want to date.
  • Choose when and if they have sex.
  • Say no to sexual intimacy. At any time. (Even if they have said yes before).
  • Privacy.  Online and offline.
  • Be with family and friends whenever they want.
  • Do all the things they enjoy.
  • Not be controlled through emotional manipulation, jealousy, anger, or hurt.
  • End a relationship.
  • Live free from violence and abuse.

Everyone deserves safe and healthy relationships.  Take this opportunity in February to start the conversation with your teens about their relationship rights.  You can also be a part of local efforts to promote healthy relationships by following our Facebook page, “The Advocacy Center of Tompkins County.” Throughout the month we are posting words and images from across the county as we partner with local schools, gender equity groups, and community organizations to define what “Love Is.”  Join us by posting your own words and images on social media with the #Loveis607 with a positive message about love.  Together we can create a community for our teens that encourages safe and healthy dating relationships.

To keep conversations going throughout the year you can visit LoveisRespect.org for more ideas or call Lyn Staack, Youth Community Educator at the Advocacy Center at 277-3203.  If you or someone you know is currently experiencing domestic or sexual abuse, The Advocacy Center hotline is available 24/7 at 607-277-5000.

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.