Marjaree Mason Center, community members spread the word on teenage relationship abuse for Teen Domestic Violence Awareness Month
REEDLEY – To put a spotlight on relationship abuse in a younger age group, community members made an appearance at the latest Reedley City Council meeting.
Based in Fresno, the Marjaree Mason Center assists and supports adults and their children who are affected by domestic violence. Representatives of the center as well as Reedley community members came together to heighten awareness on victims who can sometimes be overlooked, supporting teenage victims by drawing attention to Teen Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“This is an opportunity for Marjaree Mason and [Reedley] as a community to reach out to our teens and let them know about the dangers of domestic violence,” Reedley police chief Joe Garza said. “Even though they’re just in a dating relationship, domestic violence can and does happen in that age group.”
During the presentation, high school senior Kayla Garcia spoke as the ambassador of Reedley High School’s “No More” program. She presented some statistics on cases of teenage domestic violence as well as information on the No More program, which seeks to educate high school students on the red flags associated with dating abuse as well as the components that make for a healthy relationship. It was developed by the Marjaree Mason Center.
According to Garcia, this program is active at 23 school sites across four school districts in Fresno County. She said in total, that’s at least 1,000 students working together to put an end to abuse in teenage relationships.
“Throughout the year, ‘No More’ students spend hours in training covering 16 topics promoting healthy relationships, including romantic, platonic, family and professional relationships,” Garcia said. “If we start with our own healthy relationships, we can lead others.”
In her speech, Garcia said one in three teenagers are victims of domestic violence. This number is also reported by the Domestic Violence Services Inc., a nonprofit agency that supports domestic abuse survivors, who have stated via their website that one in three girls nationwide are victims of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner. Not only that, but the agency reported that this figure exceeds rates of other types of violence among youth communities.
Also according to the nonprofit, one in 10 high school students have been purposefully slapped, hit or physically hurt by a relationship partner. On Domestic Violence Services’ account, only 33% of teens who have experienced abuse in a relationship told someone else about it. It has also been observed that 81% of parents don’t see teen dating violence as an issue or admit it’s an issue they aren’t aware of.
“This spring, ‘No More’ students will share presentations with our peers focused on knowing the warning signs and how to help a friend navigate teen dating abuse,” Garcia said.
To acknowledge February as the national Teen Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Garcia said the Marjaree Mason Center distributed 2,000 orange t-shirts to students and administrators at local high schools. The brightly colored shirts are meant to promote and raise awareness on violence in teenage dating.
In addition to the shirts, Garcia said No More program students at Reedley High School spread awareness on the topic with engaging presentations, lunchtime games and activities and more. She also said all events were tied back into education on the healthy development of relationships.
From the Marjaree Mason Center, prevention education manager Jessica Sailor said at the meeting that she has had the opportunity to present awareness to all four school sites under Kings Canyon Unified School District. In her role, Sailor talks to youth communities about what a healthy relationship looks like and equips them with the toolkit they need to have a long, lasting and healthy relationship in their future.
“I want us to work ourselves out of a job,” Sailor said. “Hopefully one day, kids know what healthy relationships look like, and we have solidified what healthy relationships look like within adults.”