Sarah Pesi is a high school student and a member of the National Youth Advisory Board for loveisrespect. She has dedicated many hours to making a difference and was able to answer a few questions for the NO MORE blog. Learn more about how Sarah is involved in her community and how you can say no more to dating abuse.
Look around and you probably know someone who has experienced dating abuse. Shocking and saddening, right? 1 in 3 teens are a victim of dating abuse. There is good news though – we can curb this problem drastically through education, prevention, new laws, and the changing of society’s attitudes towards the issue.
Q: How did you get involved in the movement to end dating abuse?
A: I got involved with my local domestic violence and sexual assault center and also became a member of the National Youth Advisory Board (NYAB) for loveisrespect, the partnership between Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline. I realized that dating abuse was a big issue that was affecting not only my community but communities all across the country. I also wanted to get involved with this issue because I realized there were very few services available specifically for teens.
Q: Why is teen dating violence prevention so important?
A: Teen dating violence prevention is important to me because everyone deserves the right to a safe and healthy relationship. I also feel that dating violence prevention is important because I feel if we can target it when people are young, then the amount of domestic violence occurrences will decrease. Dating violence prevention is an investment in the future for not only curbing the problem when people are young but also in decreasing violence in adult relationships.
Q: Has your work on the National Youth Advisory Board opened your eyes to the importance of violence prevention?
A: Yes. It has made me realize how important education and awareness is toward violence prevention. I learned through the work with the NYAB that many teenagers don’t know what a healthy relationship is because for many it is their first time in a relationship. Also with unhealthy and abusive relationships, being seen through pop culture such as the Jersey Shore it can be difficult to figure out what behavior is and is not acceptable. In addition, many teens have never seen what a healthy relationship is because they may see unhealthy behaviors occur in their own household and therefore think it is normal.
One particular experience with the NYAB that has opened my eyes to the importance of violence prevention was attending the White House Champions of Change: Working to End Domestic Violence event. It can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_JXW5kPpOU&feature=youtu.be. I found it really inspirational. The champions talked about different violence prevention efforts they worked on in their communities and the improvements they saw. In addition, hearing what fellow NYAB members are doing in their communities has been very eye-opening and inspirational as well.
How you can say NO MORE to dating abuse:
1) Awareness Campaigns
- Host a tabling event, handout palm cards, and post posters- materials can be found at http://www.loveisrespect.org/download-materials
- Create a PSA or Blog
- Participate in an awareness event, “wear orange day” and raise money for a local DV shelter or organization
2) Strengthen Policy
- Get school / campus to adopt a policy to target intimate partner violence
- Make sure your laws are adequately protecting you; check your state’s report card at http://www.breakthecycle.org/content/teen-dating-violence-state-law-report-cards
3) Be Creative
- Think of a totally new way to curb or raise awareness about dating abuse
- Learn more about how to take action http://www.loveisrespect.org/take-action/take-action
4) Lead by Example
- Learn how to build healthy relationships and model these behaviors for your friends
5) Help Others
- Say something when you see abuse happening
- Learn how to help a friend or family member who needs help safely