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Building the Message: Teen Dating Abuse Awareness in El Monte

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KCETLink Youth Voices is working with students from Arroyo High School to explore El Monte/South El Monte and the surrounding communities. The students have formed teams to explore and investigate their communities, map assets, collect and share stories, data and community input for their projects. All the while they are learning and expanding their knowledge of digital media and civic engagement. Follow Love is Respect El Monte on Twitter @loveisrespectem or the social media hashtags #LoveIsRespectEM and #KCETYV.

Love is Respect El Monte was created as a student-led effort to bring awareness to the effects of teen dating abuse, in connection with Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a national youth-led movement, in February. As a team we feel that it's important to discuss the topic, which is a mental health issue that's still taboo in the public eye. According to study by The Family Violence Prevention Fund and Advocates for Youth published by University of Michigan in 2004, 81% of parents believe teen dating abuse is not an issue or admit they don't know it's an issue. Locally, we discovered that in order to have a deep understanding on how to curve the cases of dating abuse among our peers, we needed to define what is teen dating abuse and learn how to recognize the signs of abuse.

Our class turned to Break the Cycle, the leading national nonprofit organization that provides comprehensive dating abuse programs to young people and adult allies, who provided us with an intensive dating abuse training.

Jasmine Ceja, National Youth Organizing Manager for Break the Cycle during training at Arroyo HS
Jasmine Ceja, National Youth Organizing Manager for Break the Cycle during training at Arroyo HS
Arroyo High School Students during training
Arroyo High School Students during training

As a team we learned how to better understand the complex topic and effects of dating abuse. After the training our team decided to launch a social media Twitter campaign with the hashtag #LoveIsRespectEM, with the purpose to inform everyone and create a conversation around the the topic of dating abuse among teens.

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We felt that social media was the best platform to inform residents in the City of El Monte, and especially high school students. So on Friday, February 27, we launched our Twitter campaign in collaboration with Mountain View High School that captured 79 contributors from all over the United States, and especially teens within the El Monte Union High School District. The most exciting news was that our one hour Twitter campaign reached 100,399 twitter users and we contributed to the national conversation on the importance of raising awareness on the effects of Teen Dating Abuse.

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To see an archive of the our complete Twitter party please see our Storify.

Arroyo HS Students during Love is Respect El Monte's Twitter Party
Arroyo HS Students during Love is Respect El Monte's Twitter Party
Arroyo HS Student during Love is Respect El Monte's Twitter Party
Arroyo HS Student during Love is Respect El Monte's Twitter Party, by klxadm

Being a KCETLink Youth Voices participant has been a life-changing experience -- the process of taking an idea from conception to execution is something we didn't know could be done. Some of the skills we learned during our campaign was how to better use social media, especially Twitter, as a tool to raise awareness. Through this project we bonded as a team and applied what we learned into future editorial for our newspaper. Most importantly, we learned to work efficiently even when the work load was demanding and difficult.

The Future of #LoveIsRespectEM

Nine-months ago our intention for Love is Respect El Monte was to raise awareness on the effects of Teen Dating Abuse in our local community. What we learned is that there's more work that needs to be done surrounding dating abuse and all of the other factors that contribute to teens becoming vulnerable to any type of abuse.

The next phase of our project is to engage and broaden the information we want to present to our fellow students via social media, our school newspaper, and through a monthly discussion with students. In the upcoming school year of 2015/2016 we have set our expectations higher and we will be doing the following:

1. Partner with our school's Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club to deliver a monthly discussions on mental health related topic for all students on campus.

2. Create a mental health column in our school's student run newspaper where writers will explore and provide resources on the following topics:

  • Healthy and Unhealthy Body Image Between Boys and Girls
  • Eating Disorders: What to do if you Think You Have a Problem
  • What is Autism?
  • Coping with a Learning Disabilities
  • Cyber Addictions
  • Teen Dating Violence
  • The Effects of Recreational Drugs Among Teens
  • Defining the Rainbow: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer
  • Coping with Depression
  • Are you a Cutter? (Self-Harm)

If you would like to follow our progress follow us on social media: Twitter and Instagram and through the hashtag #LoveIsRespectEM

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