As many celebrated the month of love this past February, Human Options had something else in mind. Although domestic violence awareness has been recently widely distributed in national media, there seems to be another aspect of the topic that is not highlighted. Domestic violence is commonly viewed as an issue that only affects adults, specifically married couples. However, teen dating violence is an issue present today. 1.5 million high school students will be physically abused by a dating partner each year. Many teen dating behaviors are often thought to be a “normal” part of a relationship that people often ignore potential warning signs or make excuses. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, Human Options wanted to break those misconceptions and spread the message that Love Shouldn’t Hurt.
We launched our #LoveShouldntHurt Campaign in February in local high schools, middle schools, and after school programs, targeting the teen population. Within the topic of domestic violence, the issue of teen dating violence is hardly thought of. The campaign aimed to inform teens and adults of the prevalence of teen dating violence and to start the conversation in order to prevent the issue from rising. The local schools and organizations, such as Magnolia High School, Girls Inc, and the Boys and Girls Club of Garden Grove, were able to participate by hosting presentations and filling out pledges on what love means to them. The presentations provided insight on the warning signs of unhealthy relationships and what teens should do in order to be in healthy relationships.
Other high schools went above and beyond and even hosted awareness weeks on their campus, like Northwood High School. The Northwood student leaders from their Associated Student Body dedicated one week in February to the Love Shouldn’t Hurt campaign. The campus was decked out with purple decorations. Posters filled with teen dating statistics were hung over their school’s quad. A balloon arch and student pledges explaining different ways they showed love were written on purple hearts and displayed. Students were also encouraged to wear purple. In addition, they passed out purple chocolates and purple wristbands so everyone had at least a little purple to wear. Lastly, they invited a Human Options Community Educator to give a presentation on Healthy and Unhealthy Teen Dating Relationships. This was the first year that Northwood High School ever hosted an awareness week dedicated to teen dating violence awareness. One of the student leaders realizes the significance of spreading awareness of the issue and hopes that their Love Shouldn’t Hurt week turns into an annual event.
The campaign also touched the hearts of clients in our sites. Both staff and clients participated by explaining what love is to them through different avenues. They showed their creativity with canvas painting, drawing pledges, and mural displays. Presentations were also shared with the clients and the staff was encouraged to wear ribbons every Friday. Awareness begins in our own community and that is Human Options.