Teens were given the opportunity to express what dating violence means to them at the Child and Family Center’s third annual A Night of Expression event Thursday evening.
The event, held in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, included an art exhibit, as well as spoken word, poetry and dance performances.
“We know speaking out against something can be very difficult, but sometimes using their creativity, talents, (and) gifts makes it so much easier,” said Leah Parker, youth prevention specialist at the Child and Family Center. “It really is about creating an opportunity for our youth to really take a stand and support their peers against this issue and show the ones who are struggling with it that they’re not alone.”
Saugus High School senior Ella Miranda, 17, did just that as she performed her poem, titled “Chained Love,” that evening.
“After a lot of people go through a really abusive relationship, they feel like maybe they’re not worth as much as before, but just like a flower, they’re still beautiful even if they lose a pedal,” Miranda said. “Even after getting out of an abusive relationship, I feel like they have the same worth as before and they could still be as powerful as they were before.”
One-in-three teens nationally fall victim to physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that not only exceeds other types of violence in youth but is also higher than the rate of dating violence experienced by adults, according to a study conducted by The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus.
“A lot of times, people assume that kids don’t get into dating relationships,” said Nila Karimzai, domestic violence outreach specialist at the Child and Family Center. “It’s harder to guide these children if we’re assuming (that) … so it’s really important to understand that violent relationships don’t only happen to adults, they happen to teens, as well.”
That’s why both Parker and Karimzai use their outreach to teach kids how to live the healthiest lives possible, how to be kind and create change in their community, Parker said.
“You can see year after year the artists get better, the messages get stronger,” Parker added.
A number of organizations, including College of the Canyons, National Alliance on Mental Illness, SRD~Straightening Reins, PFLAG Santa Clarita, or Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and Queer SCV, were also there to show their support and provide resources to those in attendance.
Though Teen Dating Awareness Month only lasts through the month of February, Parker advises parents to take the initiative to keep the conversation going with their children.
“They’re never too young to hear what a healthy relationship looks like, and they’re also not too young to hear what an unhealthy relationship looks like,” she said. “If we hide the issue, that’s when the issue grows; but if we talk about it, it takes the power away.”