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Boise victim centers encouraging youth to have conversations about teen dating violence

February is national Teenager Dating Violence Awareness Month. Local groups are working to spread knowledge to youth in the Treasure Valley and spark conversations.

BOISE, Idaho — One in five teenagers in the U.S. will experience some form of abuse from a partner before they are an adult, according to FACES of Hope. The Boise victim service center's leadership adds the statistic is similar in Idaho. 

February is national Teenager Dating Violence Awareness Month. Local groups, like the FACES of Hope Victim Center, are working to spread knowledge to youth in the Treasure Valley and spark conversations.

"What's hard to understand is that if these behaviors are happening in a teen relationship, it's then going to move onto a relationship when you're older," FACES Executive Director Paige Dinger said. "These things are hard to stop."

Throughout the pandemic, victim service centers in Boise have reported seeing increases in domestic violence cases. Dinger said FACES is seeing similar trends among teenagers as well. 

With more resources, like cell phones and social media, Dinger said people are able to stay in contact with others more - which could also mean people have more ways to stalk their partner, like forcing them to show their phone and demanding they keep them updated on their every move.

"What looks like it could be romantic at first when you are in a young relationship, those texts and the calls could all seem so flattering, but there are definitely red flags that we want kids to be aware of," Dinger. 

Stalking is just one of several different types of abuse and dating violence. According to Love is Respect, other forms include physical abuse, emotional and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse and digital abuse.

"The fact of the matter is teens, 18 and younger, are still children," Dinger said. "We've got to protect our kids."

Dinger said FACES is working to become a solution to the problem of teen dating violence and domestic abuse. One way they have been able to spark more conversations and awareness is by creating a support group for teenage girls to work with FACES counselors.

"We wanted a safe place for teen girls to come together to have something in common which is abuse," Dinger explained. "It could be teen dating violence, it can be sexual abuse, it can be anything. We want a safe forum for them to come."

The group is open to any teenage girl. They meet biweekly at the Discovery Center of Idaho on Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. For anyone who wants to learn more information, Dinger encourages them to call FACES at (208) 577-4400.

She mentions the center's resources are free.

It is not only FACES trying to create more conversations on the topic in the Treasure Valley. The Women's and Children's Alliance (WCA) also has been connecting with teenagers through their Youth REP program.

"This is a leadership program for high school students in the Treasure Valley. They come together and meet every week for two hours," Tracy Darling-DeMarcus, the prevention program manager for WCA said. "They're the ones that are getting that message out to their peers."

Darling-DeMarcus said with WCA, she visits high schools in the Boise School District and West Ada School District often. She said as an adult talking about dating violence, signs in those types of environments may not have the impact they are aiming for. Darling-DeMarcus said the Youth REPs are able to relate to high schoolers more and get to the root of a problem easier.

"I know it's a pretty natural thing when a young person is told by an older person, 'you have to do this,' and 'don't do that,' the gut instinct is to do the opposite of that," Darling-DeMarcus said. "It's just a different level of communication when it's a peer talking to another peer about something that's important." 

Darling-DeMarcus said applications to become a Youth REP are reopening in March.

This month is important to Darling-DeMarcus because oftentimes people may only think WCA's resources are for adults only. She encourages anyone experiencing or believing they are dealing with a form of abuse or a crisis to call their hotline:

WCA's domestic abuse hotline: (208) 343-7025

WCA's sexual assault hotline: (208) 345-7273

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