Tag Archives: Domestic violence

For the Love of a Tea Party :: Thistle Farms Changes Lives

There was a party in Nashville, Tennessee, this week and I really wanted to be there. I would have brought the tea cups.

Let me explain.

A few years ago, on a trip to see my sons in Nashville, Tennessee, I ran across a quaint little café on the northwest side of the city. Thistle Stop Cafe sits in a corner storefront on Charlotte Pike. With giant purple thistles painted on one the side of the building and a huge metal thistle sculpture on the other, it’s hard to miss.

The café serves wonderful breakfasts and lunches, as well as specialty coffees and teas. A display to the side of the coffee counter offers Thistle Farm’s natural bath and body products, handcrafted fair trade items and books.

Photo: Thistle Farms

The food and the service were both delightful, but the most remarkable feature of the café was the lighting. Hanging from the ceiling were chandeliers made of china tea cups.

I rarely make a trip to Nashville without stopping in the café, but when I visit the city this weekend, I’ll have to pass. The café is closed for remodeling and expansion and will reopen this summer. When it does, my tea cups (which I’ll deliver on my visit) will be hanging from the ceiling along with thousands of others from throughout the country and around the world.

More important than my need for a great meal, or my appreciation for the intentional work of the company, or even the beautiful tea cup chandeliers, is the mission of Thistle Farms — to heal, empower and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction. The women who cook and serve and create the body care products are doing a healing work, living out the ministry’s motto “Love Heals”.

Founder Becca Stevens, right, helps prepare a display of skin care products made and packaged by the women living and working at Thistle Farms. (Photo: Thistle Farms)

As for the party I missed, Thistle Farms hosted a concert and celebration marking 20 years of dedication to its mission. Founder Becca Stevens, country singer Reba McEntire and the women of Thistle Farms gathered at the historic Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville on May 3 to honor program graduates in an event that raised funds for the ongoing work of Thistle Farms.

“This week’s event celebrated work that is firmly rooted in the belief that love is the strongest force for change in the world. We do this by providing safe and supportive housing, the opportunity for economic independence, and a strong community of advocates and partners.” Founder Rev. Becca Stevens

Last year, customers and donors of Thistle Farms helped make the following possible:

  • 59 women survivors employed by Thistle Farms, earning over $1m a year in salary and wages
  • 9,215 nights of safe, supportive housing provided to women recovering from life on the streets
  • 14,100 hours of counseling and therapy for survivors, ensuring their physical and mental well-being
  • 40 organizations across the country replicated our housing model, currently offering 185 beds for women seeking sanctuary from the streets
  • 24 shared trade partnerships around the globe, supporting the economic freedom of more than 1,700 women

These words from the father of a young woman healed at Thistle Farms express the heart of this project:

“Knowing Rachel had a safe environment for her journey, gave me, as her father, the comfort and confidence to continue on my recovery journey, which I began during her incarceration. Once a week I now attend two 12-step programs for parents and families with addiction, Al-Anon and Families Anonymous. The strength of the Thistle Farms program provided a secure environment for Rachel, which helped me to pursue my recovery from co-dependence. We were on parallel journeys to recovery.”

My china tea cups belonged to a dear friend who has survived three bouts with cancer and to my step-mother, who passed away last summer at age 88. They’ll be wrapped in newspaper and placed in a box along with half a dozen cups I purchased at a thrift store run by a domestic violence agency in my hometown. Profits from sales at the thrift store help provide services for survivors of domestic violence and their families. It seems appropriate that they should be hanging in a space where women are finding hope and healing.

Sexual Misconduct Isn’t Just for Politicians

It’s always an awkward conversation. After we’ve played some games, talked about what they want in a dating relationship, done a bit of role-playing, we get down to the nitty gritty.

Sexual assault. Violence. Rape.

Some of the students avert their eyes. Others giggle nervously. A few show concern, even ask questions.

I talk to high school kids about teen dating violence because they already know it’s happening. They see it among their friends, maybe fear it could happen in their own dating relationships. And they need to know how to stop it before it becomes their reality, their life.

As I write this, I’m preparing to spend four days in another high school health class as the guest speaker from our local domestic violence agency. It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the three county schools have opened their doors for our presentation.

For this group of students, there’s new information on the table. They’ve probably already seen it on the evening news or on the internet:

A candidate for the most powerful job in the world has been exposed as a perpetrator of sexual assault.

He did it just because he could. Because he’s rich and famous. And because he doesn’t value a woman’s right to say who can touch her body and when.

By the time we’ve finished talking about teen dating violence, rape, sexual assault, the students will know that if they had done what he has admitted to doing, they could wind up in jail with a felony conviction that would follow them the rest of their lives.

They’ll also know this:

  • 12 percent of high school students report having been physically victimized by a dating partner in the past year
  • 25 percent of high school students say they have been psychologically abused by a dating partner
  • Dating abuse begins as early as sixth grade
  • Adults who abuse their dating partners often do so during adolescence
  • Young women ages 14-17 represent 38 percent of those victimized by date rape
  • Any unwanted sexual contact is assault
  • Perpetrators of sexual assault and violence do it to gain control over their victims

We’ll have the awkward conversation because just maybe their awareness will mean they won’t have to know what it’s like to be a victim.

love-is-not-abuse

For more information about domestic violence and teen dating violence, visit one of these web sites:

http://www.breakthecycle.org/loveisnotabuse

http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/home

http://www.ncadv.org/

 

 

 

Love Does Not Dishonor :: 31 Days of Selah

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I am sharing this post (first written in February) on the web site for our local domestic violence agency, Elijah Haven. This agency assists victims of domestic violence by providing safety, counseling, guidance and other types of assistance.

The graphic above is a drawing made by a little girl who came to the agency with her mom. Children are the innocent victims of domestic violence. I’m sharing this post here, in the middle of blogging for 31 days, to help spread awareness.

Last February, I watched The Grammy Awards and about mid-way through, I saw my President encourage all of us to create awareness and help women out of violent relationships. His message was followed by a moving statement from domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell and Katy Perry’s performance of her song “By the Grace of God”, which she admits is autobiographical and which alludes to suicidal thoughts because of abuse. In it, she sings these words:

“By the grace of God (there was no other way) I picked myself back up (I knew I had to stay) I put one foot in front of the other And I looked in the mirror and decided to stay Wasn’t gonna let love take me out that way.”

I had to wonder, am I the only person who sees the sad irony in this very commendable Grammy performance coming days before the Valentine’s Day opening of a much-heralded, pornographic movie about sado-masochism and abuse?

Neither our President nor Katy Perry referred to the very obvious contradictory message displayed in the popular book and movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” (in the past eight months, the movie has grossed over $500 million). I only wish they had been so brave.

For anyone unaware (as I was until I did the research), “FSOG” tells the story of a man who seduces a young woman and lures her into violent sexual acts. His actions are justified because he was abused as a teen, she consents, and the story is all wrapped up with a redemptive outcome.

Sadly, many young couples spent their Valentine’s Day date night watching pornography. And they came away believing this is love.

For three years, I worked for Elijah Haven with local youth to produce a drama about teen dating violence — shedding light on behaviors that lead to domestic abuse . We took the drama to local high schools, churches and youth groups and presented it in public performances. Along the way, I heard stories from teens about ways they had been abused in dating relationships — mentally, emotionally, physically and sexually.

Sexual abuse and violence in the name of love are never excusable or desirable. Click To Tweet

And now we, the supposedly responsible adults, are telling them that such abuse is excusable, even desirable, depending on the circumstances. Sexual abuse and violence in the name of love are never excusable or desirable.

There are several ways we can work to counter the damage that has been done by “FSOG”.

  • Boycott the movie. If you haven’t already seen it, don’t rent or buy it.  If you want to see a good movie about true love, consider renting “Old Fashioned”, a movie that “offers a romance where sex will wait until marriage and God is a crucial part of its hero’s journey.”
  • Educate yourself. We need to be able to discuss the topic intelligently and learn how to combat the movie’s negative impact. Visit www.ncadv.org for more information.
  • Talk openly with your children and grandchildren about sex. If they walk through a shopping mall, watch television or pick up a magazine, they’re going to see explicit sexual images. The ongoing conversation about this book and movie has added to the need to address the subject of sexual sin with our children and grandchildren. You have no choice but to meet it head on.
  • Support efforts to combat domestic violence. If there’s an agency in your community that works to assist victims and rehabilitate abusers, that’s a good place to start.

The worst thing we can do as moral individuals in a culture that glamorizes abuse is to deny the attitude exists. It obviously does. Turning our backs will not prevent this movie’s message from impacting our world. Talking about and living out real love can make a difference.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

When the Innocent Suffer; Stop the Heartache

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The issue of violence in the homedv ribbon deserves more than 31 days of concentrated attention. It’s a sad fact that domestic violence affects one in four women in the United States every day. The recent headlines citing sports figures accused of abusive behavior have turned the spotlight on domestic violence. As a volunteer at a local agency which provides services for victims of abuse, and works to create awareness in our community, I care very much about what happens to those who are impacted by domestic violence. A year ago, I wrote a series of blog posts about domestic violence. I am sharing with you the one that is closest to my mother-heart — how violence impacts children.

“Are you mean?”

It’s not a question I’m asked often, so when the little girl with the cynical blue eyes asked, I knew I’d better give a straight answer.

“I don’t think so.”

“Are you nice? Are you nice to your kids? Do you ever smack their bottoms?”

I told her that I try to be nice to my four boys, but that sometimes moms and dads get angry and they do things and say things they regret. I hoped it was the answer she needed to hear.

A lot of the work I do for a local domestic violence agency is done at a computer, helping to create awareness of the issue. I’ve never had a face-to-face encounter with the youngest victims of domestic violence. Until that day.

As their mom carried on an emotional conversation with their dad on an office phone, eight-year-old Blue Eyes and her little sister sat close by. I could tell that they were taking it all in, and taking on their mom’s pain.

I told the girls I’d find them a snack and, taking the hand of the littlest one, led them down the hall, out of earshot of their parents’ conversation. Grabbing a couple of containers of yogurt and some plastic spoons, we settled in a quiet room where I pulled out watercolor paints and paper.

Life just stinks sometimes. People do mean things to one another, say things in the name of “love” and then, when love goes sour, innocent people suffer. These little girls could be my own granddaughters, and as I watched them innocently painting and eating yogurt, my maternal instincts were primed to give their mom a lecture on how she should protect her children.

Then Blue Eyes began talking about her mom. Wise beyond her years, she told me that her mom was just 15 when she had her first child, and that she had an older brother and sister and a couple of younger ones – six kids in the family in all. She said she knew she wasn’t going to live with her daddy any more, but she missed him. She was supposed to spend today with him, but now that wasn’t going to happen. Tears spilled from her eyes.painting

She held up her painting. It was a drawing of herself holding her mom’s hand. “I love my Mom,” she said.

I did not know what went on behind closed doors in this little girl’s house, but it was clear she had known more than her share of pain and heartache. And on this day, she was in the path of her parents’ “train wreck”.

I am not a counselor, just a mom who has had her own struggles and seen enough of others’ heartache. If I could talk with this little girl’s mother – to any mother who is dealing with a difficult relationship – there are a few things I would want to say:

  • Be safe. Put your own health and safety and that of your children above everything else. Decide what you need to do and find a way to do it.
  • Trust someone. Families have history and sometimes hold grudges or take sides when there’s conflict. If you don’t have a family member you can fully trust, allow yourself to trust a stranger who is interested in your welfare.
  • Be honest. With yourself and with the person you decide to trust. The only way anyone can help you is if they have the facts – all of them.
  • Accept help. If the person you trust offers you a chance to get counseling, to take classes, to find a job, accept those offers. You have to take positive actions to see positive changes.
  • Stay single. After you leave this relationship, even if it’s abusive, there will be a void in your life. Don’t immediately try to find someone to fill that void. Take care of yourself and focus on your children for awhile. You’ll know when you’re ready for a new, healthy relationship.
  • Open your eyes and ears. Consider what your kids see and hear while you’re in the midst of conflict. Try to protect them from it. They absorb and remember more than you realize, and may even act out on it as they grow older.
  • Love yourself. You don’t deserve the pain that’s happening in your life, no matter how many bad choices you’ve made. You can change things. Don’t live in those past mistakes. Give yourself the chance to start over.

bearWhen I left Blue Eyes and her little sister, they were hugging the bear and monkey our agency had given them the day they arrived on our doorstep. I hugged them both and said I’d see them around.

“Hey,” said the littlest one shyly as I turned to leave. “I like you.”

That night I prayed that tomorrow would be a better day for those two and for all the innocent ones who must make their way in the aftermath of their parents’ messes. It’s time for their heartache to stop.

If you or someone you love is being abused by their partner, you can get help by calling 1-800-799-SAFE.

What Children Shouldn’t Know

DVribbonWhen There’s Violence in Their Home

On that afternoon when I sprawled on the floor of my office, painting pictures with two little girls, I thought about what is REAL in their young lives.

….the angry words and slamming doors that wake them in the night

….the bruises on their Mama’s face and the sadness in her eyes

….the love they so desperately need that isn’t freely given, or given at a price

….the fear that tomorrow will mean another move, a different school, a brother or sister left behind

….the knowing too much too soon, and the possibility of a future that’s a repeat of their present

domestic-violence

Children — like these little ones brought by their mother to the domestic violence agency where I work and volunteer — are the innocent victims of grown-ups’ bad choices. By no fault of their own, they bear scars they will carry for their rest of their lives.

For these 31 days of October, we work to create awareness of Domestic Violence. For every day of their young existence, these girls and other children like them live it. They live the statistics that confirm violence in the home is a problem — yes, even in our rural Midwestern community. Statistics like these:

  • One woman is abused every 9 seconds.
  • 1 out of every 3 women suffers abuse of some form.
  • 87% of domestic violence is witnessed by children in the home.
  • 40% of those children suffer from anxiety, 48% from depression.
  • Men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence are 6 times more likely to abuse their wives than sons of non-violent parents.

Last week, after I shared these truths and more with those gathered in support of Domestic Violence Awareness, a woman who bears the scars of her parents’ broken lives bravely shared her heart.

April Maley was nine years old when her father killed her mother. After years of abuse, some of it directed at her, he did what he had been threatening to do for some time. He beat her mother, then shot her. And then he pointed the gun at his little girl and told her he hated her.

As April read to us from her own account of that horrible event, her voice choked with memories that were as fresh for her as the day she tried to wipe the blood from her dying mother’s face.

She recounted the angry words and threats hurled at her by the father she had tried to love, and her heart broke all over again.

And we who sat at tables listening, fell silent. We were reliving the terror with her.

“I went to her side and knelt. As I did, one breath released from her body. I realized years later that I was there when she took her last breath, and then she was gone.”

April tells her story of violence and abuse in her book “I Will Not Be Silent”. And when asked, she speaks the unspeakable so that violence in the home wears a face and becomes real to those who might help break the cycle.

Much healing has taken place in the three years since she wrote the book, says April. Her husband, children, family and friends support her as she travels around the country reliving the heartache of a little girl who suffered because of her parents’ choices. She says that maybe someday she will write another book — a book of redemption.

At the close of her book, April writes this:

“I am now walking with God, hand-in-hand, to finish this chapter of my life. I hope to be able to change lives for the better, even if it is only one person at a time. My goal is simple and strong: to show how the cycle of abuse doesn’t have to continue from generation to generation. Certainly I fell into the abyss along the way, but with God’s strength, I picked myself back up and am here to tell people that I’ve seen it from both sides. I had my own issues with abuse, alcohol, and the associated self-created messes, but I have also committed myself to a life of recovery.”

131023_0008

In support of April’s mission, and to help spread awareness of domestic violence, I am giving away an autographed copy of her book, “I Will Not Be Silent”.

Share a comment about this important issue below, and I will enter your name in a drawing. (If you don’t win the book, you can learn more about April Maley here and order her book here.)

Domestic violence must be stopped. Will you help create awareness — this month and every month?

When the Innocent Suffer: Stop the Heartache

“Are you mean?”

It’s not a question I’m asked often, so when the little girl with the cynical blue eyes asked, I knew I’d better give a straight answer.

“I don’t think so.”

“Are you nice? Are you nice to your kids? Do you ever smack their bottoms?”

I told her that I try to be nice to my four boys, but that sometimes moms and dads get angry and they do things and say things they regret. I hoped it was the answer she needed to hear.

A lot of the work I do for a local domestic violence agency is behind closed doors. I help write grants, prepare press releases and plan events. I also get to work with high school kids to produce a drama about teen dating violence and I speak to high school classes about healthy relationships.

But I’ve never had a face-to-face encounter with the youngest victims of domestic violence. Until today.

As their mom carried on an emotional conversation with their dad on an office phone, eight-year-old Blue Eyes and her little sister sat close by. I could tell that they were taking it all in, and taking on their mom’s pain.

I told the girls I’d find them a snack and, taking the hand of the littlest one, led them down the hall, out of earshot of their parents’ conversation. Grabbing a couple of containers of yogurt and some plastic spoons, we settled in a quiet room where I pulled out watercolor paints and paper.

Life just stinks sometimes, I’m thinking. People do mean things to one another, say things in the name of “love”, and then, when love goes sour, innocent people suffer. These little girls could be my own granddaughters, and as I watched them innocently painting and eating yogurt, my maternal instincts were primed to give their mom a lecture on how she should protect her children.

Then Blue Eyes began talking about her mom. Wise beyond her years, she told me that her mom was just 15 when she had her first child, and that she had an older brother and sister and a couple of younger ones – six kids in the family in all. She said she knew she wasn’t going to live with her daddy any more, but she missed him. She was supposed to spend today with him, but now that wasn’t going to happen. Tears spilled from her eyes.painting

She held up her painting. It was a drawing of herself holding her mom’s hand. “I love my Mom,” she said.

I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in this little girl’s house, but it’s clear she has known her share of pain and heartache. And right now she’s in the path of her parents’ “train wreck”. I am not a counselor, just a mom who has had her own struggles and seen enough of others’ heartache. If I could talk with this little girl’s mother – to any mother who is dealing with a difficult relationship – there are a few things I would want to say:

  • Be safe. Put your own health and safety and that of your children above everything else. Decide what you need to do and find a way to do it.
  • Trust someone. Families have history and sometimes hold grudges or take sides when there’s conflict. If you don’t have a family member you can fully trust, allow yourself to trust a stranger who is interested in your welfare.
  • Be honest. With yourself and with the person you decide to trust. The only way anyone can help you is if they have the facts – all of them.
  • Accept help. If the person you trust offers you a chance to get counseling, to take classes, to find a job, accept those offers. You have to take positive actions to see positive changes.
  • Stay single. After you leave this relationship, even if it’s abusive, there will be a void in your life. Don’t immediately try to find someone to fill that void. Take care of yourself and focus on your children for awhile. You’ll know when you’re ready for a new, healthy relationship.
  • Open your eyes and ears. Consider what your kids see and hear while you’re in the midst of conflict. Try to protect them from it. They absorb and remember more than you realize, and may even act out on it as they grow older.
  • Love yourself. You don’t deserve the pain that’s happening in your life, no matter how many bad choices you’ve made. You can change things. Don’t live in those past mistakes. Give yourself the chance to start over.

bearWhen I left Blue Eyes and her little sister today, they were hugging the bear and monkey our agency had given them the day they arrived on our doorstep. I hugged them both and said I’d see them around.

“Hey,” said the littlest one shyly as I turned to leave. “I like you.”

Tonight, I’m praying that tomorrow is a better day for these two and for all the innocent ones who must make their way in the aftermath of their parents’ messes. It’s time for their heartache to stop.

Tell Them Your Story

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  These past several weeks, I have posted facts about violence in dating relationships among teens, signs that your dating relationship may not be healthy and how to set boundaries in relationships.

Teens who find themselves in violent dating relationships are in danger of continuing the pattern as adults.  Sheli Emenheiser is a survivor of domestic violence.  She shares her true store in raw, honest conversation with teens as we visit area schools to teach them about safe dating relationships.  Here is Sheli’s story:

Sheli Emenheiser

Sheli Emenheiser

I was running through the house screaming at the top of my lungs. The kind of scream that a girl uses in one of those horror movie flick screams.  I was terrified of him!

I went through the entire house and was  running out of places to go, so I headed toward the basement — probably the worst place in the whole house to go.  No one could hear me there and I would have nowhere else to run.   He cornered me in front of the washer and dryer and knocked me to the floor.  I knew at this point I didn’t have much to work with, so I aimed and kicked.  I remember thinking “Please don’t let this wake the kids up.”  Maybe that is why I headed to the basement.  Our home was a beautiful Victorian home and the kids were up on the second floor asleep.

Surely my kicking him would buy me some time. However, it wasn’t as long as I would have hoped.  He was behind me sooner than I thought and once again I was cornered in a very small bathroom.

This time there was no escape and I had added fuel to the fire by kicking him earlier.  I  braced myself for whatever was going to happen.  He drew back his arm and swung. For once in my life my timing was impeccable and I ducked at just the right moment.  His hand went crashing into oak trim, the end result being three broken bones in his hand.  What amazed me even more was, after he did this, he wanted me to take him to the hospital.  I was like “absolutely not, drive yourself or walk” (at the time we lived blocks away from the hospital).  He drove himself.  I still can’t remember what started that argument, but I will never forget the end result and the terror I felt.

This was unfamiliar territory for me.  I had not grown up in an environment like this.  I had always suffered from low self-esteem.  As a teenager, I never thought I was pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, good enough…basically I was never enough.  It led me to make bad choices in boys and men that I dated.  So, here I was 28 years old, with two of my own children and two stepchildren and a husband I feared.  I was so alone. The choices I had made had isolated me from all of my family and friends.  There was no one to turn to and nowhere to run.

“Persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed.”

I came across that passage in II Corinthians 4:9 after I had traveled down one of the loneliest roads I have ever known.  My story of abuse is not unlike others, it is just my own.

We all make our own path in life, but we are all ultimately being guided.  Because no matter where I have gone or what I have done, He has always been there to take me home.

The plans I made for my life did not include an abusive marriage, but when I found myself there, I knew it was not from God.  On a horrible Thanksgiving eve that I will never forget, I took my two children and escaped.  With the help of family and friends, I have found myself on a new path, in a good marriage, and with a mission to help other abused women become survivors.

I now have the privilege to go into schools and share my experiences with young men and women who may be struggling in the same ways.  I also speak with Stonecroft Ministries, sharing my story with women who may be looking for answers.  It’s not always easy to share some of the darkest, ugliest moments in my life, but I believe it is vitally important for women to know what the signs are.  To be aware and know that there is help.

Tell Them They Deserve Better

Her brown eyes pooled with tears and her lower lip quivered as she timidly approached.

“My dad has been abusing me since I was little. I can’t remember a time when he wasn’t hurting me.”

This brave teenager’s bold admission caught me off guard. After three days of talking with local high school students about abuse in dating relationships, I should have expected one of them to come forward. I could see it in the eyes of some as I spoke openly about emotional and physical abuse. My words had touched tender spots, hit home.

The girl assured me that she isn’t living with her abusive dad now, and that he will finally face a judge because of what he’s done. She is getting counseling, but she is still afraid. Sounds at night make her jump. She said she watches constantly, thinking he may follow her to school or to her grandmother’s house while he is bonded out awaiting the trial. She has been diagnosed with PTS — Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

Caused by a father who is supposed to love her.

My heart breaks for this young woman, as it does for the many who know all too well the heartache of abuse. In my work for Elijah Haven Crisis Intervention Center, I share with teenagers truths about abuse in dating relationships.

I tell them that, statistically, one in every four high school students reports having been psychologically abused by a dating partner.  At least 12 percent, and as high as 40 percent in some parts of the country, of teens say they have been physically victimized by a dating partner. Nearly 40 percent of date rapes happen to young women between the ages of 14 and 17.

We talk frankly aboteen-dating-violence jpgut what to look for in a dating partner, how to know if behavior is abusive, what to do if they find themselves in an unhealthy relationship. We talk about the consequences of physical and emotional abuse, for both the victim and the abuser.

We also talk about the fact that adults who use violence with their dating partners usually began being abusive as a teenager. Dating abuse is reported as early as the sixth grade.

For the young woman who came forward, and for others like her who are abused by an adult they should be able to trust, choosing who to date can be a tricky matter. It’s important to help them understand that they deserve better than they’ve received from someone who “loved” them.

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. In the coming weeks, a cast of nine teenagers from my area will work together to create awareness through the original drama “The Outrage”. These teens will perform the drama in their local high schools and in the community. They’ve already seen abusive dating relationships among their friends, and they want others to know “If you’re not outraged, then you’re not informed.”

As I work with these teens to stage the drama “The Outrage”, I will spend time here sharing what I’ve learned about abusive relationships, particularly among teens. To help you become aware — and outraged — you can view a video here featuring Allison Basinger, the author of “The Outrage”, as she talks to teens in Kansas about teen dating violence and abuse.

If you know a teen who is in an abusive relationship, talk to them. If they can’t or won’t talk to you, give them this toll-free telephone number: 1-866-331-9474. Or direct them to this Web site. Urge them to get help and to break the cycle of abuse, for themselves and for their abuser.

Tell them that they deserve better, that they are worthy of genuine, healthy love and respect.