A social media dating violence awareness campaign takes Valentine’s Day by storm.
Story by Breanna Sill, Staff writer
Healthy, unhealthy and abusive – those are the three classifications that intimate relationships can fall under, according to loveisrespect.org. Although for some, defining their relationship is not as simple as checking a box.
February is Dating Violence Awareness Month and the Murray State Women’s Center along with the Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center of Paducah, Kentucky, have partnered to raise awareness among students about healthy relationships.
The recognition of Dating Violence Awareness Month is a fairly new concept, as it was just established under President Barack Obama as a way to raise national awareness of dating violence.
“We’ve long recognized domestic violence as a public health problem impacting one in three women,” said Abigail French, Director of the Murray State Women’s Center. “But as we learn more about the issue we have begun to see similar rates of violence in dating relationships.”
In fact, dating violence in general is something that laws and protections did not traditionally cover under their statutes. They were originally written to refer to married couples or couples living together.
French said these laws and protections have since been updated.
“This is an important shift in thinking because many women, young women especially, were struggling to find the same protections under the law that those in domestic relationships could seek out,” she said.
On Feb. 4, the Women’s Center teamed up with Loveisrespect to promote Loveisrespect Twitter chat “Love = Setting Boundaries” as a way to engage youth in the conversation about dating violence.
Loveisrespect was launched in 2007 and was the first 24-hour resource for teens who were experiencing dating violence and abuse. According to their website, it is the only teen helpline serving the United States.
French said the event was important for two main reasons, the first reason being that students need to be engaged in positive conversations and focused on healthy and positive behaviors.
The second reason is that the Twitter chat gave students an opportunity to not only engage with their peers about dating violence, but also to read what their peers had to say.
“I think it’s a great way to engage students who are often very busy and unable to attend traditional programs,” French said.
On Feb. 9, students were encouraged to wear the color orange to symbolize Dating Violence Awareness Month and show support to their peers who could be struggling with abuse issues of their own.
“By choosing to wear orange on National Wear Orange Day, students were saying ‘I support healthy relationships and I expect to give and receive respect in my relationships with others,’” French said.
Students can participate in the upcoming National Respect Announcement through Thunderclap on Feb. 12 to show support for Dating Awareness Month.
“By participating in this Thunderclap, you will help promote healthy relationships and connect young people to valuable resources like Loveisrespect,” said the Thunderclap website promoting the announcement. “Invite your friends and share photos of you and your community speaking out using #RespectWeek2016.”
By signing up to share the announcement, students are able to share it through their multiple social media accounts and help promote and educate others on healthy relationships.
If a student of any gender is struggling with relationship violence, the door to the Murray State Women’s Center is always open to them. The Women’s Center works with students to help prepare a plan to exit and end relationships, establish a safety plan, file for a protective order and connect them to other resources, French said.
The Merryman House Domestic Crisis Center is one of those sources. The Merryman House provides many of the same services as the Women’s Center, only in an off-campus location.
“I genuinely believe that when we only focus on what not to do, we are missing the real mark for change,” French said.