DeKalb Co. educating teens as violent relationships rise

It’s a growing problem in this country, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Teen dating violence is on the rise, with more and more young adults finding themselves in an abusive relationship and not knowing how to get out.

“It’s very prevalent,” says Jennifer Stolarski, Chief Assistant in the DeKalb County Solicitors Office.  “If you look nationwide, we’re seeing one in three girls experiencing some sort of dating violence in their relationships.”

Stolarski says the trouble is that while adults may know how to handle a stalker or an overaggressive suitor, teenagers often don’t.  Add to that the peer pressure teens feel and it could lead to a dangerous situation.

“If a teenage girl gets a text message from a boy she’s broken up with twenty times in a day, her parents would know that’s a warning,” Stolarski tells ESB.  “But, if the girl tells her friends first, they’ll tell her that it only means the boy really cares for her and she might renew the relationship.”

Those relationships can be a harbinger of worse to come.

A report from the Georgia Fatality Review shows how violent teen dating can lead to much, much more violence.

“When it comes to domestic homicides,” says Stolarski, “between 2004 and 2011, 54 percent of those folks who were murdered started those relationships when they were teens or young adults, between the ages of 15 and 24.

“The abusive relationship is starting and the abuse is starting. Eventually, they’re being murdered by their abusive partners,” she says.

So Stolarski and other members of the Solicitors Office are trying to educate teens, and their parents, about the troubling trend.

Stolarski spoke on Thursday to a youth group at Exchange Park off Columbia Drive in Decatur, teaching them what to look for and how to handle a bad situation.

The lesson she gives to teens is far different than the one for their parents.

“We know that with teens, they carry on their relationships through the use of technology. Which is different from how adults carry on a relationship,” says Stolarski.  “We’re trying to get the teens to understand what is standard behavior and what are warning signs.”

“We just want them to learn how to take moment out their life, take a step back and think about things.”

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