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Advocates work to prevent teen dating violence in Wisconsin

Posted at 8:36 PM, Apr 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-28 21:36:55-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — About 20% of Wisconsin teens have reported experiencing some form of violence in romantic relationships, according to a statewide victims organization.

Cody Warner, End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin's LGBTQ and youth program director, told Wisconsin Public Radio that dating violence and abuse is more prevalent than many realize.

The group claims that 30 teens in Wisconsin have been the victim of intimate partner homicide since 2000.

"Those are just the ones that were reported," Warner said. "A lot of times, families don't know that they're dating, don't know that they're in this relationship."

The University of Washington released a study this month that found 7% of teenage homicide victims across the country were killed by a former or current intimate partner. Roughly 90% of the victims were female.

The majority of teens never tell an adult when they experience dating violence, said Stephanie Ortiz, the Wisconsin group's director of prevention and outreach.

"One way that we try to get around that ... is really encouraging young people to be that trusted person in their friends' lives," she said. "So that they're feeling ready to respond to their friends when they're in situations like this, so they are able to recognize that earlier on."

The organization has been training teens and adults across the state in prevention efforts around anti-oppression, dating violence and gender-based violence, Warner said.

Warner said that identifying the signs of an abusive relationship isn't easy. It can start out as small comments about clothing that eventually lead to controlling behavior, including becoming verbally or physically abusive.

There can also be financial abuse, which involves controlling a person's money and spending, as well as slowly isolating a person from their friends, family and support systems, Warner said.

He said recognizing the signs for LGBTQ teens can be particularly challenging. He said that many LGBTQ youth he's worked with in rural areas have told him that they don't know what a healthy relationship is supposed to look like.

Ortiz said "it's really important to engage adults and make sure that they're modeling healthy behaviors so that those that are coming after them have a model of what to look up to and how to even dissolve conflict in a non-violent way."

Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio,