GREENFIELD — A group of Hancock County teens has formed an alliance aimed at promoting safe and healthy relationships, and its members have started their work by volunteering to help adult domestic violence victims.
The teen group, nicknamed Do Your PARRT: Promoting Awareness for Respectful Relationships by Teens, serves as a youth branch of the Hancock County Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. Its aim is to educate the county’s young people about risks teens often face when dating, organizers said.
As the school year kicks off, group members will work to reach their peers through a numbers of methods, including through posters and informational signs and fundraisers to support the organization.
Members have used the summer months to get ready to hit the ground running as school starts, preparing to take their message of safe dating into their classrooms and hallways. Just as the local domestic violence coalition hopes to spread awareness of domestic issues among the county’s adults, Do Your PARRT’s goal is to educate young people about dating violence and encourage those who face it to reach out for help, said Kelly Buzan of Alternatives Inc, a nonprofit victim advocate organization.
Buzan served as the victim advocate for Hancock County for more than a decade and helped create Do Your PARRT before taking another position within Alternatives, which is headquartered in Anderson.
One of the group’s first tasks has been a service project to aid women staying at Alternative’s women’s crisis center in Anderson. The group’s summer meetings have been spent packing bags with donated office supplies that victims can use to start a new, organized life away from their abuser.
When people leave a violent relationship, they often leave with nothing, Buzan said. Having theses bags of supplies will help victims organize the paperwork and materials they receive when they walk in the door at Alternatives.
Knowing the bags came from area youth who support their decision to find a happier life will go a long way to help the victims feel calm and settled in their home at the shelter, Buzan said.
Do Your PARRT boasts members from three of the four county high schools, though its leaders hope to take the organization county-wide in the coming weeks.
Teens are as a prone for dating violence as any other age group, Buzan said. Like their adult counterparts, many youth assume they can handle their tumultuous relationships on their own rather than asking for help, she added.
Though it’s not often talked about, teen dating violence is just as common as domestic violence among adults, said Eastern Hancock High School junior Audrey Effing, a member of Do Your PARRT.
“It just happens behind closed doors,” she said.
One in three women and one in four men will experience violence from their significant others in their lifetimes, according to the World Health Organization. At the same time, one in three teens experiences sexual or physical abuse or threats from their significant others each year, experts say.
Do Your PARRT hopes to equip young people with the tools to recognize when a friend’s relationship has hit the rocks, said Eastern junior Annie Floyd, another member of the group.
Teens don’t usually reach out for help when faced with an unhealthy relationship, Floyd said. If their friends know the warning signs of a bad relationship, they’ll know to encourage their peers to seek assistance, she said.