By Teri Vance
Editor’s Note: This is one is a series of articles, Partners for Success, highlighting the agencies that make up Partnership Carson City, an alliance of resources dedicated to creating a healthy community.
After watching a video in her freshman health class at Carson High School, Emily Tierney, 14, learned that some of the behaviors that may seem normal in a dating relationship could actually be problematic.
“I didn’t know some of those things could be red flags, like jealousy,” she said.
Tierney isn’t alone, according to Traci Trenowith, sexual assault response advocate with Carson City’s Advocates to End Domestic Violence.
Trenowith said one in three teens is in an abusive relationship. To make matters worse, she said, they often don’t even know it.
That’s why she speaks to high school freshmen each year, showing them a film that displays some subtleties of violence in dating.
The students then break into groups to discuss what they learned and identify similar behaviors they’ve seen in popular media.
“Our hope is that if they are given tools to recognize red flags, we can help prevent them from being in abusive relationships,” said Trenowith. “Our hope is that if we can educate them at a young age, they’ll have ideas as to what to look for as they grow into adult relationships.”
Formed in 1979, Advocates for Domestic Violence began in Carson City by providing a crisis hotline, then expanded to include a rented two-bedroom apartment for shelter. It is now a full-service program that operates a 51-bed emergency shelter and provides a wide range of emergency and long-term services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
Community education remains an important part of the mission.
During the presentation at Carson High School, Monica Salas, 15, noticed a pattern that abusers often follow.
“When they first start dating, they’ll say the kindest words ever. Then comes the jealousy,” Salas said. “Most girls will think he’ll change because of how he used to be. It doesn’t work that way.”
Abuse can range from hitting to calling names, making threats, telling lies or sexual coercion.
It can begin with minimizing, denying and blaming. The manipulation continues to escalate.
“It gets out of control sometimes,” said Amber Clayton, 15. “Once you’re more into the relationship, and they know more about you, they can use your weaknesses against you.”
After watching the film about a dating relationship, Alejandro Mendoza, 15, noticed how control and isolation can manifest.
“He went too overboard with the situation, punishing her and not letting her go to her friend’s party,” Mendoza said.
Austin Williamson, 14, recognized the value of learning to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship.
“If you know what you’re looking for, you might be able to stop it for yourself or for others,” said Williamson.
For more information about Advocates to End Domestic Violence, go to aedv.org. For immediate help, call the 24-Hour Crisis Hotline at (775) 883-7654.
Do You Recognize Abuse?
People often think about abuse in the context of physical violence, such as slapping, shoving, grabbing, pinching, biting, hair pulling, hitting, choking, strangulation, beating, or at its most grave, assault with deadly weapons. However, it is common that physical violence is foreshadowed by other patterns of behavior and forms of violence, such as:
- Calling someone names or putting someone down
- Shouting and cursing
- Making threats
- Extreme jealousy and suspicion
- Keeping someone away from their family and friends
- Throwing things around the house or at another person in a violent manner
— Source: Advocates to End Domestic Violence