Raising awareness for National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and experts say in today’s digital age, it’s even easier for teens to fall victim.

28/22 News Reporter Amelia Sack spoke with the team at Victim’s Resource Center, a nonprofit providing services to victims of abuse and other crimes, about the signs and the different forms of teen dating violence.

“Rebecca was a straight-A student in high school, and she wanted to go into dance. She was gonna go to Slippery Rock University,” Terry Renninger, father of Rebecca Renninger and an advocate for domestic violence victims.

Terry Renninger lost his daughter, Rebecca, in 2009, she was murdered by her estranged abusive husband. He says the abuse started when she was just 17.

“And then her abusive boyfriend at the time made her cancel college,” Terry added.

Experts use February as a time to spread awareness about teen dating violence, which can consist of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. In today’s digital age, another category is being added to that list.

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“Another thing that we’re really looking to talk to our teens about is the prevalence of ai generated photographs right now,” said Victims Resource Center CEO Suzanne Beck.

Beck says an innocent photo of your teen can be manipulated into something it’s not. There are a few signs to look out for if you suspect your teen is a victim of dating violence.

“So when teens start to withdraw and they’re not really interested in having conversations,” said Victims Resource Center Manager of Prevention and Community Services Eryka Vargas.

Vargas says teens might also begin to hide what they’re doing on their phones.

“It could be a lack of eating, depression,” Vargas added.

She says all of these could be warning signs, and keeping an open, safe space for conversation with your teen is key. Vargas also shares a message, for any teens experiencing dating violence.

“You are not alone. We absolutely 100% believe you. People at Victim’s Resource Center especially can help you get through this, and it’s all confidential and at no cost.”

Victim’s Resource Center will also be participating in outreach at schools in Luzerne, Carbon, and Wyoming counties in February to directly educate teens on the signs and the forms of dating violence. They also have a 24-hour hotline for anyone who needs it.

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