October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and our local Gordon County Domestic Violence Outreach has focused on educating youth this year. Over the years, I’ve had multiple discussions with Beth Peters, Director of Gordon County Domestic Violence Outreach. Her role is to raise awareness and advocate for change.
I don’t know how often I’ve heard Peters say, “It’s never too early to start educating young people about healthy relationships.” Why is teaching kids about healthy relationships so important? Because one in twelve high school students will experience physical violence. That’s a startling statistic, but even more startling is that of those who face physical violence, only one in three will report the abuse.
As a parent, it makes me sick to think my daughter might have been or could have been a victim. Did all of you have the same thought? The worst part of these statistics is what happens to these young people as a result of physical violence. According to Peters, “Teen victims are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, or display antisocial behaviors. Teens often use coping mechanisms or engage in unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco, drugs, and alcohol.”
Well, if it’s never too early to teach our young people about healthy relationships, how do we start? Peters says to start by having open and honest conversations with kids. Kids are like sponges; they absorb everything, and the more we can teach them, the better. One of the best examples Beth has ever shared with me is about not forcing small children to give hugs and kisses. I am guilty of telling my daughter to give family members hugs and kisses when departing, or sugar, as we say here in Georgia. I had never thought about how that could put her in the position not to feel it was okay to tell someone seeking inappropriate contact no.
We have to teach our young kids and teens the importance of self-respect. They have to understand that good relationships don’t require them to change the way they dress, act, or who they hang out with. Someone who loves and cares about them won’t ask them to change who they are but will love them for who they are. I think this is sound advice for all of us, no matter our age.
I’m very thankful for people like Beth Peters and her staff, who make it their mission to teach others about self-respect and healthy relationships. During October, her team provided information to Gordon Central students on October 19, Wear Purple Day. Peters said, “It was great to see staff members and students going all out to support victims and survivors.” That’s what Wear Purple Day is about. Showing those who silently suffer and those who have broken free that we care.
That’s why they brought back the Walk a Mile event, where men wear high heels to support
those who face, have faced, and sadly lost their lives to domestic violence. Dorian Johnson with Fit From the Core is this year’s reigning shoe champion. Peters wanted to ensure everyone, especially the men who walked in heels, knew how much they appreciated your support. While this event might be fun, it doesn’t take away the fact that so many still face abuse daily.
Until we have eradicated all violence from our community, people like Beth Peters and her staff will be working hard to support others. If you would like more information about teaching your children about healthy relationships or would like them to present to your group, they would love to create a presentation catered to your needs. If you need their free and confidential services, they’re here for you. You can reach their office at 706-625-5586.
Let’s focus on learning about and sharing healthy relationships with our young people. If we all work together, we can reduce those statistics to a thing of the past. If you would like to help in the fight against Domestic Violence, there are numerous ways to help. Give Beth Peters a call at 706-625-5586 to find out more.