Part of the YWCA of North Central Indiana’s mission is to aid community members who have been victims of domestic or sexual violence. For their protection, these clients’ names have been changed in the blog post below.
The numbers are shocking. 1 in 4 teens self-report physical, emotional, verbal or sexual violence each year in the United States. 11 percent of Indiana high school students report they have been forced to have sexual intercourse – a number much higher than the national average. Nobody wants to hear these statistics, but they cannot be ignored. Not by agencies like the YWCA and certainly not by parents.
“The teen years are critical. Kids are watching television and being influenced by social media. I see it, my daughter is testing the water and kids tend to do what they see,” said “Ann” a mother of two teens and a YWCA client.
“We need to talk about it," added YWCA client "Shelly" who is a mother. She worries about her kids getting sucked into the same unhealthy, abusive relationships that she found herself wrapped up in, but she feels like she is hitting a brick wall. “They don’t want to come to you, they’re afraid if they tell their parents they are going to go off on them.”
Ann agrees those conversations are hard to have, and she feels like her daughter is pushing her away. “I’m battling trying to get her to open up; it might be something about the mother-daughter relationship. We want to be friends, but we can’t.”
Both mothers are at a loss about how to reach their teens, and say they just want positive influences and messages pouring into their kid’s lives.
Here’s where the YWCA North Central Indiana is stepping in. A $20,000 grant from Verizon Wireless will enable the YWCA to expand its Teen Dating and Sexual Violence Prevention Program and reach more teens with critical information. With this money, the YWCA will hire a part time teen dating violence prevention specialist to provide education to students in Elkhart County and St. Joseph County. This person will teach the danger signs of an abusive relationship and guide students to help when needed.
“We are really excited because we’ve just been struggling over the past years to do more dating violence, date rape, stalking, education in the schools. We know there’s such a huge need,” YWCA’s CEO and president, Linda Baechle, said.
The specialist will work with students at local schools, as well as youth service organizations, with the goal of bridging the gap between students and valuable – possibly life saving – information.
“We know students don’t want to talk with their parents, they don’t listen to their teachers, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the problems. It may not sink in for a lot of them, but at least we’re reaching someone,” Shelly said.
Ann said she is happy to have extra help reaching her daughter, “She won’t be hearing anything new, but maybe if she hears it enough – and from someone else – it will be reinforced.”
For more information about the YWCA and its services in Elkhart Country, visit www.ywcancin.org or call 574-830-5073.
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