Columbia group plans to educate teens on realities of dating violence

Monday, March 19, 2012 | 6:52 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — For a Columbia activism group, knowledge is the key to preventing teen dating violence.

A new organization, Violent Experiences Not Tolerated, or V.E.N.T., co-sponsored by Columbia Parks and Recreation and True North of Columbia Inc., will launch a campaign in April geared toward preventing gender violence among teens. The city agency and emergency shelter for victims of domestic and sexual violence have joined to develop an education and outreach program. Thirteen- to 18-year-olds of both genders will discuss topics such as gender stereotypes, healthy relationships, sexual harassment, bystander intervention and what constitutes dating violence.

According to a teen dating violence fact sheet distributed by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22.4 percent of women and 15 percent of men who experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner had their first experience with abuse between the ages of 11 and 17.

"When you have heightened awareness, there is more disclosure," said Barbara Hodges, executive director of True North. "Some teens think, 'It’s OK if he tries to dictate who I talk to. It’s OK to control me.’ A young teen girl may not have guidance at home to help set those boundaries of what is acceptable."

Teens will participate in various activities, including healthy bingo, role-play and quizzes. They will also have discussions and a question-and-answer opportunity after each activity.

Hodges said the series will be tailored to the needs of the teens as they’re identified, and that continuation of the series will be determined by the response of the teens in attendance.

Events will be from 6 to 7 p.m. on Mondays, beginning April 2, at the Armory Sports and Community Center at 701 E. Ash St.

For more information, those interested may contact Grant Bracken at

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