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February Declared Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

February Declared Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

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Groups in Charlottesville are working to raise awareness for teen dating violence. They say it is a daily task to educate people on how to prevent it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. The organization says the purpose of raising awareness is to educate people dealing with relationship violence of necessary resources.

"A lot of people just don't know that a lot of things count as dating violence," said University of Virginia student Emily Renda.

Renda leads a peer education group called Sexual Assault Facts and Education (known as SAFE) that helps spark conversations about sexual assault and dating violence.

"Most of what abuse is doing is taking control away from the victim, so what we're trying to do is then say like, you have control about where you're going to go next," Renda said.

Experts say this breakdown of control in intimate relationships can start as early as middle school.

"We know that it's a very high number for young people. Between the ages of 16 and 24 are when young people are at the highest risk for being in an abusive relationship," said Claire Kaplan, director of sexual and domestic violence services for the UVA Women's Center.

Groups like Safe Schools/Healthy Students are putting out videos and webinars in central Virginia schools this week. They focus on having control and choice when in a relationship.

"This is just one of those good prevention things that we pride ourselves in safe schools is not only providing the information, but also helping kids know that they have a choice," said June Jenkins, the group's project director.

Renda says that choice is important and relevant to everyone.

"If really we think about it and one in three women, and one in seven men experiences some form of dating violence and sexual assault in their lifetime, that means that everyone is connected in some way to someone who is experiencing these issues," Renda said.

Safe Schools/Healthy Students encouraged everyone to wear orange Monday to raise awareness for dating violence. The group will hold events on the topic all month long. For more information, click here.

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