February may be Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, but AWARE®’s Teen Advisory Board spends every month of the year doing their part to prevent dating abuse and promote healthy relationships for their peers. The board gets together for monthly meetings to discuss current events, how to raise awareness about teen dating abuse and how to educate teens about the warning signs of abuse and how to help themselves or their friends get help. We asked two of our Teen Advisory Board superstars why they joined and how they want to make an impact in their communities.
Why did you join the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board?
Rachel Loewy: Before joining the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board, I participated in an It’s Not Love® workshop and interned at JCADA. While interning, I often read about how common teen dating abuse is, but it’s hard to really grasp unless you hear personal stories about it. By spending a couple of hours a month with my peers discussing dating abuse, I further understood just how widespread of an issue it is and how prevalent it is in our own community.
Emma Thoms: Ever since I participated in an It’s Not Love® workshop at camp, I have carried the AWARE® card with the signs of abusive relationships with me everywhere. I feel very strongly about the importance of healthy relationships and the need for everyone to know the warning signs and the dangers of an abusive relationship. Being involved with the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board gives me the opportunity to learn more and feel confident educating others.
What are three qualities you think are essential in healthy relationships?
ET: One is that you both are able to give each other space and are not completely dependent on each other. Second is that when conflict comes up, you are both able to talk it through and compromise. Lastly, you both communicate and honor each other’s boundaries and have a mutual understanding that you will respect each other's limits.
How do you plan to raise awareness during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month?
RL: I want to raise more awareness with my peers by engaging them in a discussion about teen dating abuse. A lot of high schoolers think of abuse as just physical and as a man hitting a woman, but it can also be verbal, emotional, technological, sexual or financial. It also affects both men and women and can happen in same-sex relationships, too.
ET: I’m going to talk to my friends about what I’ve learned and use social media to spread the word!