Teen Safety Week addresses teen dating violence, sexual pressures and assault | SteamboatToday.com

Teen Safety Week addresses teen dating violence, sexual pressures and assault

Patty Oakland
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

While today is the last formal day of Teen Safety Week, “In the Same ‘Boat,” it’s just the beginning of our open continued conversation regarding teen safety. Thank you to all who attended the Teen Safety Fair yesterday, and to all our partnering agencies for the work you do to support our teen community every day.

Our final topic is teen dating violence, sexual pressures and sexual assault. Phrases that we may be familiar with, but what do they actually mean? Dating, relationships, love, touch, sex and gender roles differ greatly with cultural and religious differences. They also are specific person-to-person and relationship-to-relationship. The key takeaway with this topic, is honor yourself and the person you are involved with. Reflect on what is meaningful to you. What makes you feel liked, cared for, special or loved?

What is the difference from one relationship to another, for example a romantic relationship, a friendship, a coach, a teacher and a parent? Think about what you are OK with and not OK with. What do you want differently in a romantic or sexual relationship? I encourage you to reflect on your boundaries and your desires. Practice saying no and in a manner you are comfortable with. That is your right. This is your life, your mind and your body.

After reflecting on yourself, consider the other person. Maybe it is someone currently in your life or maybe it is someone in the future. What is their yes and their no? Have you talked about it? What does someone’s nonverbal yes and no look like? How do we see or hear a no, and immediately stop our actions? Are we pushing an idea and trying to get or trying to force a yes? How do we stop and communicate?

This topic sounds complex, but it is simple. Respect and boundaries come from talking openly and honestly. It should be driven by open communication to avoid misunderstandings, but there are actions that are illegal such as the use of violence, force, manipulation and blatantly ignoring someone’s verbal and nonverbal no. If you are in a position of power, an inappropriate age difference or familial — there can never be a yes. Don’t ask or look for consent because it is not possible.

Dating violence can take many forms, physical violence, sexual violence, psychological aggression, intimidation and isolation, and stalking. Additionally, dating violence doesn’t just happen in person, but also digitally via cell phones, social media and other technology.

Your nudity is your privacy. Nude and private photographs are giving someone else the right to your privacy and the ability for that person to do whatever they want with it. Even on apps, where it will vanish or disappear, there are ways those photos will still exist and can re-appear in public ways. It can be avoided, don’t take nude or private photos. Don’t ask for these photos. If you do receive a nude or private photo, delete it. Do not share it. Do not save it for later or in case you get mad at this person.

Frequently at the police department, we are notified of photos like this being shared non-consensually or used as blackmail. It is something we want people not to experience, especially teenagers! It may start fun or flirty but can quickly be violating and extremely upsetting when someone does not respect you and your privacy.

Teen dating violence greatly impacts lifelong health, opportunity and wellbeing. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. Unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can foster anxiety and depression, cause teens to engage in unhealthy sexual behaviors, use drugs and alcohol, develop eating disorders and exhibit antisocial behaviors. The good news is, teen dating violence is preventable, and we can all help young people grow up violence-free.

It comes back to what I discussed yesterday, compassion, support for others’ personal journeys and kindness. Practice these actions in your head, have open and honest conversations, and identify disrespect, abusive language, controlling behaviors and other forms of violence.

We are all in the same ‘boat, no matter what our age. As a teenager, you are searching for control. Your life is navigated by your parents and guardians, teachers, coaches, bosses, and your time is filled by what you “need” to do. You are not a passenger riding along, even if there is a road to follow. Make choices that make you proud, feel good, make others feel good and help make this place a little better for each other. When we are in this boat together, every movement is felt, every person is known and every direction is together.

I end Teen Safety Week with the challenge for you to stand up for each other, don’t tear others down, keep conversations going, build new and strengthen face-to-face relationships, and make good choices. Keep the conversations going and be safe Steamboat!

Patty Oakland
John F. Russell

Patty Oakland is the civilian investigator for the Steamboat Springs Police Department.

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