Lead our youth to safe dating

Prom season has arrived, reminding us that respectful and
appropriate dating can be a healthy activity for teenagers.But a
serious problem threatens to take the bloom off of the corsage. Teen
dating violence devastates too many kids and too many relationships. A
familiar cause remains all too common. And too many parents remain
unaware. According
to national statistics, about one-third of all high school students
report dating violence in their own relationships or among their peers.
In Indiana, a statewide survey found that 12 percent of teens report
being physically hurt by the teen they are dating, and 9 percent of
Hoosier high school students report being forced by their date to have
sex without consent.

Warning
signs that a teen is being victimized include physical signs of injury,
failing grades, truancy, dropping out of school and sudden changes in
mood or personality.

Also,
the connection between substance abuse and teen dating violence is
clear and unmistakable. Rates of alcohol and drug use are twice as high
in abusive relationships as in relationships with no dating violence.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than half of criminal
offenders guilty of dating violence were using drugs or alcohol or both
at the time of their criminal behavior.

The
consequences of teen dating violence are immediate and long-lasting.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, victims —
in addition to suffering physical injury or sexual violation — are
more likely to do poorly in school, abuse alcohol or drugs and
experience depression that leads to eating disorders and even suicide.

Despite
this trauma, a national survey found that 81 percent of parents either
believe that teen dating violence is not an issue or admit that they do
not know if this is a serious issue. More than half of parents admit
they have not spoken with their child about dating violence. Yet much
can be done to prevent or detect this dangerous behavior.

Teens
should be warned to not leave parties or social events with someone
they just met. Messages about alcohol and drugs — especially the link
between substance abuse and teen dating violence — must be consistent
and continuous. Also, teens should be advised to stop and leave if they
are in an uncomfortable situation with their date, with parents
agreeing to pick up their child anytime, anywhere.

The DOE's
finished product will be ready by July 1, 2011.