Before I started my work term placement at Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, I really had never thought about domestic violence and the effects it can have on the women and children involved. I knew it existed, I have seen it in movies and heard about stories on the news, but I never thought about how it was happening in the cities surrounding my own community where I have grown up for the past 24 years.

Because domestic violence was never a topic of discussion that came up very often in my home or even in middle and high school, I only really learned about it once I started my coop position working as a Public Relations Intern for WCSWR  at Anselma House.

Sometimes we think about things like domestic violence and understand that it can happen, but we never think that it could happen to us, someone close to us, or even someone from our own community.  This ignorance has got to stop, and the attitudes about domestic abuse, especially within the younger population need to change. We need to be teaching our teens about domestic violence and what it means to be in healthy teen dating relationship.

Because young people can be easily swayed by what the media says, their attitudes and ideas about domestic violence can sometimes already be made up depending on the top story that day. For example, during the incident with Chris Brown and Rihanna, young girls were tweeting to Brown stating things such as ‘you could hit me anytime you want’, and boys were beginning to say things like “watch it or I will go Chris Brown on you”. This idea that domestic violence is a joke or something that is OK needs to end.

Being a young person in the Waterloo Region, I truly believe there is a lack of attention directed at education programs within high schools and even middle schools to help teens understand teen dating violence. I have learned that violent behaviour can start at a young age, and once someone is affected by violence in a teen relationship, they are more likely to experience domestic violence later in life. That is why it is so important to get the messages about healthy relationships and domestic abuse into their minds early so we can all help to stop the cycle.

Let’s not let our future generation continue the torturous and devastating cycle that is domestic abuse. Let us help them to know the warning signs, understand that there is help and assistance out there if they need it, and make sure they know to ALWAYS speak up.

If you or someone you know is involved in teen dating violence, do not just stand by. Be an ACTIVE bystander and get the support you need to remove yourself from that situation and move beyond violence.

Kate, Public Relations Coop Student