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Dating Violence Affects LGBT Teens
February 3, 2011
by Jaden Gragg

Because February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, I would like to take this time to educate you about this issue. It may be affecting your children, your peers, your friends and family, or maybe even you. Dating violence is a widespread problem in teen relationships; as many as one in three teenagers who have been in relationships have experienced the most serious forms of dating violence and abuse, including sexual and physical abuse. These statistics are not strictly for heterosexual relationships, because studies have shown that dating violence occurs at the same rates in same-sex relationships.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens are faced with unique obstacles when in abusive relationships. They may not be out to their parents or friends, so they canít talk about the struggles they are having with their partner. They may feel like if they leave their partner, they will be the only LGBT person in their community. Leaving may mean total isolation.

Victims of this kind of violence are likely to suffer in silence and shame, feeling like they have no one to turn to, or brush off the abuse as not serious. According to loveisrespect.org, only 33 percent of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about it. But the consequences of these experiences can be quite grave, possibly leading to a higher risk of substance abuse, eating disorders, promiscuity, adult revictimization, or suicide.

I have recently been part of a project with Kansas City Leaders Overcoming Violence with Education (KCLOVE) to address issues of LGBT youth, such as bullying and hate crimes, sexual violence, and dating abuse. Our group is a safe space for LGBT youth victims of violence. If you are a young person who is experiencing dating violence, or want more info on KCLOVE, call KCAVP at 816-561-0550 or go to www.kcavp.org. You are not alone. You can get help.

Jaden Gragg, 18, is a student at Shawnee Mission Northwest High School.
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