BALTIMORE, Md. — February is teen dating violence awareness month shedding light on a problem that affects teens across the country including here in Maryland.
“Recent statistics in the state of Maryland for teenagers is about 10 percent of high school students,” said Valerie Weir, the Domestic Violence Coordinator at GBMC. “That break downs to be about 1 out of 3 females and 1 out of 7 males in the teen adolescent age group that become victims.”
Although teen dating violence is a problem that affects many teens in the state, Weir says the signs may not be as obvious as you think.
“Often when people think of domestic violence they think of the physical aspect of domestic or dating violence and that’s usually the obvious signs,” said Weir. “What you don’t see as an outsider is the emotional and verbal abuse that can also take place.”
Through GBMC’s Safe and Domestic Violence Program, Weir and a team of professionals work year-round to spread awareness about teen dating violence. They work on preventative measures like educating parents and teens about the problem. For those who do find themselves in a teen dating violence situation, the program provides a number of services to help.
“We do have forensic nurses and advocates that work with patients,” said Weir. “We do the SAFE examines for people who find themselves that have been a victim of sexual assault or rape. We will provide that service here at the hospital complexly free of charge.”
The program doesn’t just work to help victims physically, but also mentally.
“We do take care of the mental aspect of being through a trauma situation with our advocates,” said Weir. “They’re available 24/7 and we provide resources for counseling, any legal assistance to help them through that long-term transition and healing process.”
The services are all offered in an undisclosed part of the hospital for privacy and comfort.
“We are lucky enough to have an area that is separate from the emergency room,” said Weir. “It is just us back here so when a patience does come back here, we maintain their confidentiality, we maintain amenity and we’re able to provide all of those services back here”.
Advocates with the program hope to not only educate parents and teens, but also encourage more victims involved in teen dating violence to come forward.
“If you have someone that you’re comfortable talking to, please reach out to them,” said Weir. “Anyone who a teen will reach out to, know that there’s a reason they chose you and be there for them. Be their support. Tell them that they’re brave for coming forward and talking. Let them know you believe them and this is a judgment free zone where they can come and talk to.”
GBMC’s Safe and Domestic Violence Program relies greatly on grants and donations to help keep their program running. They are hosting their fourth annual Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event on April 6th to encourage dialogue and show support for those impacted by sexual violence and domestic abuse. The proceeds will go towards supporting the program and providing victims with basic necessities when they are in need.