Teaching teens about having healthy relationships

Credit: Theresa Palmgren/KTVB

Emily Luker

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by Natalie Podgorski

KTVB.COM

Posted on May 1, 2012 at 5:43 PM

BOISE -- A group that's helping Idaho teens learn how to have healthy relationships, and prevent dating violence, is getting national attention.

A New York Times reporter is spending the day with the Idaho Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to highlight the coalition's work with teens.

“I was constantly jealous in a relationship and I didn't realize how important the quality was,” said Sara Leonard.

That was before Sara Leonard got involved with the Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault's teen dating programs -- The Center for Healthy Teen Relationships and Start Strong Idaho.

“Now I am in a relationship actually and I can see how much drastically healthier it is, how much happier I am,” said Sara Leonard.

The coalition says Sara isn't the only teen who realizes what a healthy relationship looks like. Six years ago, nearly 14 percent of Idaho high school students said they had been hit, slapped or hurt by a dating partner on the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey.  Today, 8.7 percent of teens answer “yes” to that same question.

“A six percent decrease is something to pay attention to,” said Kelly Miller, executive director ICADSV.

Especially since Idaho is the only state to show a decrease in that area.  Now people want to know why Idaho teens are having healthier relationships.

“We really see it as a community problem and so we are providing a community solution,” said Miller.

The coalition works with the state Department of Education, health care providers and youth groups to promote healthy relationships.  And they start early.

“If we really want to prevent abuse later in life we need to start that at middle school,” said Miller.

The coalition teaches teens what healthy relationships look like.

‘We learn that jealousy isn't a way of showing love.  That communication is key,” said Sara Leonard.

Those lessons are reinforced through events and competitions.  Recently, they held a poetry competition.

“Reeling in nothing except for moss and an old boot. But we are not disappointed because we are just two perfect friends fishing by the river,” said Emily Luker.

Emily Luker won with that poem.  She says writing it helped her think about what good relationships look like and that is the coalition's ultimate goal.

For more information about the "Center of Healthy Relationships" and "Start Strong Idaho" go to: http://lovewhatsreal.com.

Also, an art competition where teens illustrate what healthy relationships look like is happening Tuesday evening in Julia Davis Park in Boise.

Parents and teens are invited to "Chalk Heart" starting at 6:30 p.m. in the sculpture garden.

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