HARRISBURG, PA —Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine this week highlighted the issue of teen dating violence and encouraged residents to talk about this emerging public health threat, which not only is a physical issue, but often also leads to mental health issues.
“Teen dating violence is very common and affects millions of teens in the United States each year,” Dr. Levine said. “Being exposed to dating violence can cause significant mental and physical health problems. It is essential that we talk about the impacts of dating violence among youth and continue to promote healthy relationship behaviors to ensure the safety of all residents.”
The department partners with the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) to support evidence-based strategies to prevent sexual violence and other violent behaviors before they occur. Pennsylvania’s local rape crisis centers receive extensive training and technical assistance through CDC funding. These centers implement prevention strategies that target specific populations within their communities, including schools, college and university campuses, and other partners.
The department also partners with the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation to provide Coaching Boys Into Men (CBIM) as a part of its ongoing efforts to prevent dating violence and increase positive intervention when witnessing intimate partner violence. CBIM is an evidence-based leadership program that teaches young male athletes skills to build respectful and healthy relationships with dating partners, and ultimately to prevent sexual assault and adolescent relationship abuse.
According to the CDC, teens who are victims of violence in high school are at higher risk for experiencing violence during college and throughout their lifetimes. Victims of teen dating violence are also more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety or engage in unhealthy behaviors, such as using tobacco, drugs and alcohol.
“Unhealthy relationships can start early, and the effects can last a lifetime,” Dr. Levine said. “Teen dating violence can lead to other forms of violence, such as child abuse, adult sexual violence and suicide. It is essential that we talk to young people about healthy, respectful interactions so they can continue to live healthy lives.”
In addition, It’s On Us PA is a statewide campaign launched by Gov. Wolf in 2016 to help end sexual assault on college and university campuses.
Building off the momentum of the national It’s On Us movement, It’s On Us PA brings together college and university presidents, superintendents, administrators, teachers, students, families, and community members to reframe the conversation around sexual violence and pledge to be part of the solution.
In January, Gov. Wolf announced $1 million in grants to combat campus sexual assault at 36 colleges and universities. These grants mean more than $4 million invested by the Wolf Administration over the past three years to combat campus sexual assault.
Earlier this year, Governor Wolf introduced a multi-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign, Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters, aimed at expanding resources and overall support of mental health and related health care priorities. Reach Out PA will address many recommendations for improving mental health services. Those who are victims of teen dating violence need to know it is okay to not be okay, and that there are resources and individuals to help them.
This campaign follows the Wolf Administration’s formation of a statewide Suicide Prevention Task Force. The purpose of the task force is to develop Pennsylvania’s statewide suicide prevention plan, a four-year strategy to reduce suicide in Pennsylvania and fight the stigma associated with suicide, suicide attempts, and mental health issues. The Task Force recently issued the report from its months-long meetings across the commonwealth.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or is considering suicide, help is available. Reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact Crisis Text Line by texting PA to 741-741.
For more information on violence and healthy relationships, visit www.health.pa.gov.
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