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Empowering Teens to Make Healthy Choices

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Uncategorized

Published on August 31, 2010 with No Comments

By Harriet Fagan

So many emotions come into play when sending a child off to college and the list of items to be collected, paid for, and packed seems never ending. It is a bittersweet time filled with great expectations – and some apprehension – for both parent and teen.

As dorm and clothing items are selected and checked off of the list, Mom and Dad cannot help but wonder if their college freshman is fully equipped to navigate life on their own in a campus setting. Certainly by now they have been warned at home and school to avoid the temptations that await them. They have heard that they should be their own person and not succumb to peer pressures regarding sex, drugs and drinking; put studies before partying; change their sheets at least monthly; cool it with the junk food, and consider wearing long pants when temperatures drop below freezing.

But when the day arrives that you swallow the lump in your throat and bravely bid your child farewell in the dormitory parking lot, is there anything you have overlooked discussing with him? Statistics and recent news headlines suggest the answer is likely “yes.” That something is awareness of campus dating violence.

Thanks to such high profile stories as that of the death of Yeardley Love at the University of Virginia last spring, college campuses are increasing efforts to address relationship violence. Campus help lines, counseling services, campus police or school judicial programs and plans to quickly move a student out of a dorm to safety represent growing attempts to protect students and respond to studies that suggest one in five relationships at college involves violence. The issue has become so widespread that Taylor Swift and other popular vocalists are addressing it in their music.

A Kansas State University professor and an expert on intimate partner violence, Sandra Stith notes, “In the research on college students in particular, we’re finding both men and women can be perpetrators and the biggest predictor of whether male and female college students would use violence against a partner was whether the partner was violent toward them. The violence was found to more likely involve shoving and pushing by both sexes.”

As might be expected, alcohol and drugs impact the likelihood of any kind of violence, with binge drinking strongly related to its acceleration. According to the Dating Violence Resource Center, for example, 75 percent of men and 55 percent of women involved in acquaintance rape had been drinking or taking drugs prior to the incident.

Not all campuses have residential life staff who are adequately trained to respond to dating abuse, stalking and similar incidents, and not all schools offer preventive education. Your student should become familiar with resources available both on – and off – campus before they or someone they know becomes a victim. Break the Cycle’s College Student’s Guide to Safety Planning is a good resource to have on hand and www.breakthecycle.com offers advice and tips.

Next time you text your new college freshman, share the website and other information mentioned above. Then go bake and mail your darling a nice batch of chocolate chip cookies to enjoy with his new-found friends.

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About Harriet Fagan

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

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