February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month. Some local students took a closer look at this tough subject for a class project and what they found is startling. They're this week's "Romona's Kids."
One in three high school relationships involve abuse. That's why four Lakewood High School students decided to take a closer look, by giving survey to some of their classmates. They found 56 percent know someone who's been a victim, but that's not all. "I learned that 33% said they were a victim of verbal violence, and I also learned that 67% do not believe that verbal violence is domestic violence," said student Michael Dodrill.
"It's something that people have to realize, it's not just guys, even though you think guys are more masculine and more in power, women can be very controlling." said student Tiara Shephard. "It's kind of shocking, I don't think a guy would come forward, maybe he would keep it secret," said student Dominic Guerra. "You don't really hear about that, but it does happen," said Guerra.
A new program at Lakewood High School called "Ranger 360" is trying to prevent the problem, before it starts.
"Lakewood City School District is one of nine school districts in the nation to receive funding from the Department of Justice to create a school and community based response to domestic violence, dating violence, stalking, and sexual violence," said Abby McGinty of the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center, who is also the Program Coordinator of the Ranger 360 Program. It is a collaborative partnership between the DVCAC, the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, and the Lakewood Police Department.
"Administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, and parents work together to plan training for staff, education for students in middle school and high school, and youth leadership training for students who may ultimately educate their peers and lead awareness campaigns," said McGinty. "Oftentimes youth aren't involved in that conversation and it is absolutely essential that we bring youth to the table when we talk about intimate partner violence and sexual violence," said McGinty.
The group's teacher said he's very impressed with the students' work. "Their project was fantastic," said teacher Joe Lobozzo. "They said a few things on the last day when they presented their project about how inspired they were by each other to make changes, and that's what we're looking for as teachers, that students leave the classroom and leave these halls with plans to make the world a better place," said Lobozzo.
"That was the goal, to make people aware, get them to care, and hopefully see a decrease in these numbers because this shouldn't be going on," said student Jianna McCullough.
"We learned a lot about ourselves, about everyone else, we learned a lot about Ranger 360, and what we can do. I feel like our school can be the start of it, and just let other schools know that we have Ranger 360, other schools should want Ranger 360," said Shephard.
If you're dealing with dating violence, or know someone who is, here is a list of contacts where you can get immediate help:
Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center
24-Hour Hotline 216-391-HELP or http://www.dvcac.org/
Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
24-Hour Hotline 216-619-6192 or www.clevelandrapecrisis.org
Love is Respect: The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
If you are a teen looking for support, you can text "Loveis" to 22522, Call 1-866-331-9474 or visit www.loveisrespect.org. Discuss your options confidentially. Peer advocates are available 24/7.
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