HERKIMER, N.Y. – On Thursday, the Herkimer community is invited to attend a "Community Conversation" at Herkimer High School to talk about some of the issues that teenagers may be facing.
One of those issues includes teen dating violence, something one expert in the field said parents can easily overlook.
"I think parents don’t realize how prevalent it is," said Allysa Rader, the community education outreach coordinator for the Domestic Violence Program at Catholic Charities of Herkimer County. "One out of three teens experiences an unhealthy relationship. It goes to show how prevalent it is."
Rader said parents who have a close relationship with their child may not recognize the signs in front of them.
"A lot of them are subtle," she said. "Things like jealousy, controlling behavior and emotional abuse. If you don’t know what to look for, they can be easily overlooked."
In 2016, the Domestic Violence program at Catholic Charities in Herkimer County received over 1,300 calls to its hotline. It offers the following services for victims in the area:
•A 24-hour confidential hotline that can be reached at (315) 866-0458;
•A safe house at a confidential location, available to those seeking safety and shelter;
•Author advocacy through the legal system, housing system and social system; through its legal advocacy, they petition family court;
•Offers individual counseling for victims;
•Offers a support group at 2:30 p.m., Tuesdays; those interested should call the hotline at (315) 866-0458 for more information.
Rader said another part of the services they offer includes community outreach, noting its monthly teen taskforce that aims at creating teen leaders.
"[We’re] trying to empower teens to make social changes in their schools and communities," she said.
The next teen taskforce meeting will be Feb. 16 at 3:30 p.m. Students interested in attending can text their name and the school’s name to (315) 868-2165 for more information.
Rader said the program is also holding an art contest where those aged 12 to 18 years old can design a poster to promote the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship. She said the winning design will be printed into a professional poster and the artist will receive $100 cash as a prize.
"Prevention is the key to ending the cycle of violence," she said. "Teaching children and teens what a respectful relationship looks like is an important factor in preventing dating abuse. [They can] learn the red flags to help them avoid getting into a dangerous situation. By providing community education, we’re teaching teens the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships."
"The more the community understands the dynamics of abuse, the better we can all work together to recognize it, prevent it and stop it," said Rader.
A "Community Conversation" will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday in the Herkimer High School cafeteria. Rader said she will give her presentation about teen dating violence – as February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. She said she talk about the dynamics of a healthy and unhealthy relationship, the red flags of teen dating violence, how parents can talk to teens about healthy relationships and how parents influence their teen’s dating habits.
The conversation will also include a presentation from the Herkimer County Prevention Council on vaping.
"More and more teens are becoming familiar with vaping, and want to experiment," said Kassandra Gonyea, a Herkimer CSD prevention specialist in a district website article. "They think that (e-cigarettes) are just flavored water vapor, and don’t have any harm to their bodies."
In the article, Gonyea noted that any type of vaping can carry health risks, including pneumonia, seizures and an increased risk of cancer. Vaping remains high among young people, despite the risks, with more than one in 10 high school students reporting they used e-cigarettes in 2016.
"We treat vaping like we do smoking on school grounds and view the activity as a health hazard for children and adults," said district Superintendent Robert Miller in an email Tuesday. "Dating violence is also a safety issue confronted by both our students and adults in our community. We hope that a dialogue with parents about these health and safety issues can help keep our students and community safe."
The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments, door prizes and a raffle will be available, according to the school district website. There will also be a discussion panel with different community professionals along with a representative from the Herkimer Police Department. For more information about the program, call (315) 894-9917.