When Teen Dating Turns Violent and How to Stop It
04/24/2023 | 26m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
Youth survivors and activists share perspectives.
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04/24/2023 | 26m 46s | Video has closed captioning.
Youth survivors and activists share perspectives.
Problems Playing Video? | Closed Captioning
(film reel clattering) - [Sandy] Welcome to today's Ethnic Media Services Zoom news conference, [background music] today supported by a generous grant from Blue Shield of California Foundation which really has taken the lead in supporting work on domestic violence.
February is Teen Dating Violence Prevention Month.
That is a topic that is hard to grasp.
Parents worry about teenagers who date, getting into an accident, drinking, taking drugs, staying out too late, mixing with the wrong crowd.
One out of 12 adolescents experienced physical or sexual dating violence according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With girls and young people who identify LGBTQ, there's an even higher rate.
This means young people bullying, intimidating, abusing, humiliating, and hurting each other while out on a date to have fun.
The consequences can be serious and long lasting, setting the stage for future relationship problems, the CDC reports.
EMS asked the children's-- the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence to introduce us to some young people who could help shed light on this phenomenon.
All are members of The Partnership's Youth Commission which is dedicated to preventing dating violence and educating young people about what healthy relationships involve.
Our speakers who represent youth include Ana Campos; Armaan Sharma, who will be joining us on Zoom.
And a fourth student, Isha Raheja, who wrote a short essay which we will share as part of our collateral and which can be published.
We're also joined by Megan Tanahashi who is communications analyst for The Partnership and Kandee Lewis, executive director of Positive Results Center and a member of the Civil and Human Rights Commission of Los Angeles City.
And now, for our opening speaker, Megan Tanahashi, communications analyst at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.
So Megan, thank you for opening this topic up to us.
Thanks so much, Sandy, for inviting me to be here.
I hope there's not too much background noise but as Sandy said, my name is Megan Tanahashi.
My pronouns are she, her and hers from the ancestral and current-day homelands of the Nisenan people, in a Starbucks today!
(chuckles) Also, known as the Sacramento area.
I'm a strategic communications analyst for the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence also known as simply The Partnership.
In my role, I help support [background voices] our organization's communications strategies, but one of my primary focuses is on our media advocacy, which is why Ethnic Media Services is such a fabulous partner for us to have.
So, thanks again for having me here.
The Partnership is a coalition of domestic violence organizations and allied community partners along with survivors working to prevent and end domestic violence in California.
We are part of a larger network of coalitions across the nation and each state and territory has its own coalition.
So, I know there's some MASH reporters here.
I'd be happy to put you in touch with some of the other coalitions if you are so inclined.
But, as Sandy said, I'm here to speak a little bit around the background of what The Partnership is doing with youth and why it's so important to our work.
And, as Sandy said, as well every February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, also commonly known as T-D-V-A-M.
It is nationally recognized every year and this is a prominent campaign time for our organization and the movement to end domestic violence as a whole.
And, a little bit about the work that we do for our campaign here in California.
My first year working on this campaign was in 2021 and this is when we first began our youth advisory committee for TDVAM.
It was the first year that we needed to organize this event remotely due to COVID.
And so, there were a lot of unknowns!
(chuckles) And, this is ultimately what led us to working with youth and seeking their advice directly, from both past experience organizing this event pre-pandemic, as well as being unsure on what strategies would resonate with youths who are currently experiencing a pandemic.
We took a chance and we asked youths directly for their advice and we've done so ever since.
A value that we often use in our communications work is "passing the mic", and this is our way of saying that we amplify authentic messengers.
It's valuable to have youth lead on speaking on this issue because youth today are able to give you an inside peek as to what relationships, both intimate and with their friends and peers, look like today.
Social media, a tenuous political climate, and an unprecedented pandemic have created a completely new landscape that teens have to navigate today.
And, it's completely different from even what I had to navigate 10 years ago, and I'm sure many of the adults here today had to experience.
Thank you so much!
Youth are the best messengers, not only to their peers but they can also easily relate to legis-- legislators.
[misspeaks] These are our two main audiences for Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.
Prevention is a key aspect of both the Awareness Month and our work at The Partnership, as a whole.
We believe that primary prevention is one of the most effective ways to disrupt the cycle of violence.
Peer-to-peer prevention efforts can give youth the tools they need to successfully navigate being in a relationship and stop violence from ever occurring in their lives.
This is an important message for legislators to hear because our coalition is constantly advocating for some of these programs to have state funding which is what Sunita wrote in that article.
So thank you, Sunita!
Mental health rates for youth are at an all-time high and new studies also show that young women in particular are at a high risk for experience-- violence at a young age, particularly sexual violence.
And so, our budget ask is also in partnership with the Sexual Violence Coalition.
And so, this work is critical and youth are ready to speak out.
They deserve a platform to be heard which is why The Partnership is excited to connect you with the opportunities like this briefing.
- When you were growing up, when you were coming of age in high school, were there active youth involved in-- dedicated to preventing teen dating violence?
Or, is this something that has sort of mushroomed with the problem?
I could speak to my experience.
I grew up in a pretty conservative town in northern California and we got a GSA Club, I think, my senior year in 2018.
- What does GSA mean?
GSA is the Gay-Straight Alliance club.
So, there weren't a lot of activist clubs on campus as far as I'm aware, let alone violence prevention ones.
So, I can't speak to how long some of these programs have been around because they might have been around in other communities a lot longer.
But I know within my community, and the high school that I grew up in, not very common.
- We're gonna start with our first student speaker who is Ana Campos and she will be speaking about her experience as a survivor of intimate partnership violence.
- I'm Ana Campos.
I am 17 years old and I live in Orange County, California.
I...got into this work because I myself am a survivor of domestic partner violence, and I had been in that relationship with my partner and it was toxic, and I did not see the red flags.
I was blinded by fake love, and I thought what was happening was okay, and...it clearly wasn't.
Because my sister had been there to tell me, "Hey, this is not normal.
This is not healthy.
This is not okay."
And, some of the red flags that, like, I was constantly ignoring were like-- like, he was very manipulative.
He would constantly, like, check my phone without my permission and just be angry over the smallest things.
And, those are all red flags that I should have seen.
But, I thought, "Oh, he just cares."
"He is actually just-?
He just likes me.
Like, it's fine."
But, it's not fine because those are toxic things that lead to even bigger things as a lot of people know.
And, young men do think women and young girls are not as "good" as them.
I think there's definitely this superiority that they feel in themselves and that's totally not okay.
And...I see that with kids at our school, kids outside of school, and I think that's also like a root of society and them trying-- [background music] and society putting pressure on them as well to be [click sound] the "masculine" one.
Or to have, like, super big ego; stuff like that.
And, I think-- And another, like, trait that society, like, pushing on them is to be, like, "dominant" one.
And, for people to, like, assert their dominance, they could think of that through violence because it could be like one versus the other.
So, I think that's also a reason that it could be happening.
Like, domestic violence could be happening with other youth, as well.
I think part of the reason why so much domestic violence happens in teens is because they don't know what the red flags or the green flags are.
And, if it's not taught at home or if it's not taught in schools, how are they supposed to know?
School is where everyone is mandated to go, and if we don't start at school, where are they gonna start?
Where are they gonna get their information?
And, those young kids grow up to be older adults and can continue this cycle of abuse that needs to have a stop when they're young.
My sister was a big part of the reason why I came to realize that this relationship I was in was not healthy.
And, I think it's so important, so crucial for kids and teens to have that space and have that person to be able to talk about, talk to, such as, like my sister, like a family member.
Or, a trusted adult or a counselor at their school if they don't trust their adult.
Which is why it's also really important to train counselors on how to deal with this topic that's being brought up.
Who knows how better-- talk to youth about certain problems other than other youth?
I think talking peer-to-peer, it's a lot easier and I feel like the ideas are more welcomed instead of it coming from an adult.
So, I think it is effective and more people do need to be educated about it because I know a lot of people don't even know what TDA violence is.
A lot of people think it's just physical, but it's mental, psychological and so many other ways.
And, I think not a lot of people know about that.
- I wanna thank Armaan Sharma for being able to navigate your school curriculum and be able to speak and join us on the conference.
You're also speaking as a young man, so that, too, is of great interest to us on this topic.
So Armaan, welcome.
- Thank you so much.
Thank you so much Sandy for setting this up.
Parents are some of the most important people in a youth's lives, if not the most.
If parents don't initiate conversation about dating or relationships or don't create a safe space for discussion, teens, A, will lack in their education about these topics and will have to turn to other potentially misleading sources.
And B, will not feel comfortable discussing these topics with parents, ever.
What then happens needs little clarification.
Problems with relationships or teen dating violence will go unchecked, youth will suffer and cycles of violence will continue.
I will, however, say that while I've been framing this as an issue that is specific to the South Asians, which is why organizations like NARIKA exist which has been mentioned in the chat, every parent has work to do, including my own.
While my parents have given me and my sister a great deal of independence growing up, they have also shielded us, or at least me, from hard experiences that they wish to only see adults go through.
I am currently enrolled in a school where the high school portion of it has 30 people.
I kid you not!
And, even in elementary and middle school, I went to extremely small schools, which were very shielded and protected.
However, going to these small schools created a misperception of the rest of the world.
It, A, introduced me to a very small scope of people so that making connections with others I wasn't constantly around became much harder.
And, B, under prioritized education about relationships or teen dating violence because it wasn't perceived to be a relevant issue.
We may be a society that values freedom of speech or the lack of regulations on media platforms or the internet.
However, we can't just sit idly by and watch our youth get hurt by these platforms and say, "Oh, well.
There's nothing we can do about it now."
There literally is.
It's called "prevention."
Prevention means education in schools about relationships, healthy relationships.
Prevention means funding mental healthcare and increasing access to under-prioritized communities.
Prevention means funding for targeted, innovative programs that work with specific communities that help resolve unique issues regarding dating and dating violence.
And, prevention means finally prioritizing underfunded areas where prevention programs are less robust and overlooked.
If I could just briefly talk about diversity, it's just something that I wanna discuss a little further simply because of how little it's been discussed previously.
So, teen dating violence, as we should all know, is not something that affects only one group.
It can affect everyone including men.
And, in fact, marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community often experience much higher rates of such violence.
But, we're seeing so little representation in this field and it makes no sense because we can't attempt to solve a problem that affects everyone if everyone isn't involved to stop it.
Therefore, and it may be a cliche to say that "Injustice for some is an injustice for all," but that's simply the truth.
So, as long as we continue to see the same groups represented in the movement against intimate partner violence, we'll never achieve progress to the extent that we desire to and that we need to, which is why I'm speaking here today.
- Thank you.
That was just a extraordinary combination of very sharp analysis and personal experience.
Thank you so much for that.
I'm sorry for running over time!
(chuckles) - Oh!
I'm going to hold off on Q and A for our final speaker and then leave the remaining time for Q and A for both you and her.
Let me now introduce Kandee Lewis, executive director of Positive Results Center in Los Angeles, and a member of that city's Civil and Human Rights Commission.
I'm so glad to have you as our final speaker on this because, you know, as a parent and grandparent I'm sitting here thinking, what can I-?
What can I-- What can all of us do to address this...real, almost invisible and rarely discussed topic affecting our kids?
So thank you, Miss Lewis.
- Thank you, Sandy, for the invitation.
And, it is so important that we're having this conversation.
I wanna thank all of the reporters for being here today and I hope you can hear me clearly.
Parents are so concerned that if we talk about healthy relationships, we're giving our children permission to have a relationship.
But, when we don't bring up the conversation, we're really-- children are left to look at their environment.
And, if a family is having an unhealthy relationship that child will assume that this is normal.
And so, it will go into their relationship.
Most of the time when we see violent, abusive relationships we'll see it at home.
We'll see it with our siblings and their relationships and we will model that relationship, as well.
So, we have to make sure that we're not only addressing negative conversation or negative behavior in ourselves but in those that are around us.
It's important that we talk to our children about what a healthy relationship is or if you're in an unhealthy relationship, talk to them honestly about that.
Because we are, as people, we want to be loved and we want to be accepted.
And so, if we're not getting the kind of attention that we need, we will go and seek that negative attention because the difference between positive and negative attention is nothing.
It's still attention, and we're gonna get it from wherever we can find it.
So, the conversation should begin at home: "What is a healthy relationship?
"What is acceptable behavior?
What is unacceptable behavior?"
And, if parents are unfamiliar with these conversations, are afraid to have those conversations, they should seek other agencies.
They can contact the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence.
They can contact me or anyone else.
What we do is we work with youth and young adults and we train them to be peer advocates.
And, we don't just come up with the ideas.
We bring the youth and young adults into the conversation and we ask them, "What do you think is important for people to know?
What do you want people to see?"
Parents also have to remember that the relationships and the way they dated when they were younger is different from today.
We don't have the same kind of relationships.
As a young girl, I remember my mother and father told me I could not date until I was 16 or 17 years old.
Now, I was okay with that but I saw other people that snuck around.
They snuck out windows.
They went to school and they dated, and they wouldn't tell their parents that they were dating.
So now, abuse can happen because your parents don't even know you're dating.
And so, if they don't know you're dating, they're not gonna-- you're not gonna tell them about the abuse that you're experiencing.
(hesitates) I also want to bring up the fact that television, videos, all social media is showing very unhealthy relationships.
They think it's very cute to expose your body, to be in abusive relationships, to even be shared among people instead of having a relationship with one person.
The music industry is telling you it's okay to be passed around.
And that's where a lot of abuse begins, as well.
I have to give credit to the young people that spoke before.
They really touched on this in such a great way but I'm gonna go back to, again: Parents?
Learn to have a conversation with your children from a place of love and acceptance as opposed to shame and blame.
Because once you talk to a child and you're shaming them and blaming them-- and not just a child: anyone.
People shut down.
We're not gonna have any kind of conversation or an honest conversation, if you are shaming me and are blaming me as well.
And, that is what happens a lot of [audio distorts] times in abusive relationships, that shame and blame and making the person who is being abused feel like it is their fault when it is never ever their fault.
Even if you don't know the signs or you know the signs, it is not your fault that you're in an abusive relationship.
It's about power and control.
And, you don't have to be of a certain size, have a certain financial background, ethnicity, or gender to be the person that is the most empowered or that has the most control.
So, be aware of that.
And then, also, especially since-- I'm gonna say "since I was young".
When I was young there was always someone at home.
Now, especially because of COVID, we didn't just walk through one pandemic.
We've fought through five pandemics!
The pandemic of COVID, the pandemic of sexual assault, the pandemic of domestic violence, the pandemic of economic disparity and housing insecurity.
And so, now, parents have to go to work and maybe work two or three or four jobs.
And so, our children don't have the same opportunity to speak with a trusted adult.
Your child really wants to know that you care because if you don't take the time to talk to your child, someone else will.
And, that other person may not have their best interest at heart.
That other person could be the abuser.
- Thank you very much, Kandee Lewis.
One of the questions on the chat is how does the kind of education the three speakers on our Zoom conference are promoting, how does what your work involves intersect with sex education?
What is the difference?
- Sex education is just not education around sex and doesn't get into the component of healthy behaviors, healthy...interpersonal relationship and communication.
And so, those are some essential building blocks to creating that foundation that will end the cycle of violence and prevent it from ever occurring in young people's lives.
And-- I think I put also in the chat that the California Healthy Youth Act is a...tool that some of our prevention-- preventionists are using to build relationships with those in schools that are teaching sex ed, to build in this component of speaking on the social-emotional factors of a healthy relationship.
- Anything you wanna add, Kandee Lewis?
- Megan's absolutely correct.
Sex ed is just sex ed.
Now first off, because of COVID a lot of schools have actually cut sex ed.
So, the conversation is not even happening.
So, there's not a lot of time to even address it.
And so, we can't look at sex ed [background music] as an education-- or a tool to talk about dating violence.
But also, most of the time those that are teaching the sex ed classes are not professionals.
They're the teachers, and they're running through that subject like, "Okay, let me just get done with this."
So, there's not a lot of time to really have open, honest conversation about a healthy relationship or even a healthy sex relationship.
♪ [calm background music] - Thank you so much.
It's been a very compelling and disturbing hour and it implicates all of us.
So, my thanks to our media for giving us a platform for exploring these issues.
And, thanks to the interpreters.
Thanks to you all.
Our conference now is closed.