Category Archives: Safety

Dating Abuse: Get Help & Get Out

It usually starts out fine… You meet somebody. After spending some time with them, you decide you really like them. They’re nice, funny, they make you feel good. They treat you right. You start dating them and you fall in love. But, sometimes, after you REALLY get to know somebody, that will all change and stuff will start happening that you never thought would happen to you.

Dating abuse happens a lot more in teen relationships than a lot of people realize. In fact, over 1.5 million high school students experience physical violence from someone they’re dating every year. Approximately 1 in 3 teens are victims of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.

What exactly is dating abuse?

Here are the different types of abuse:

  1. Physical abuse is when your significant other hurts you physically in any way. It could be punching, hitting, slapping, grabbing, pushing, shoving, kicking, choking. It could even be holding you down or not letting you get away. Those kinds of things are NEVER okay.
  2. Sexual abuse is when your partner makes you do things sexually that you don’t want to do. It could be that they want to make out and fool around, you say no, and they do it anyway. It could be unwanted touching. It could even be rape. 
  3. Emotional abuse is when they make you feel bad about yourself, make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, try to control you, embarrass you in front of others.
  4. Verbal abuse is when they say things to you that are negative and hurtful. For example, telling you you’re fat and ugly, you’re stupid, they don’t know why they’re even with you,you can’t do anything right, calling you names, etc.

People abuse others because of THEIR OWN ISSUES… it has nothing to do with the victims. They just feel like they need somebody to lash out at to fix their problems with themselves. They like having control over someone, and they like making someone else feel worthless because THEY have self-esteem issues of their own. It could also be that they grew up seeing an abusive relationship, so they think it’s normal.  Or maybe they have anger issues, they hang with the wrong crowd, they’re on drugs and drink alcohol, they have a history of being aggressive and bullying other people. Whatever it is, it isn’t YOUR fault that they’re doing that to you. There are no excuses. You have done NOTHING to deserve that.

Teens who are victims of dating abuse are more likely to do bad in school, drink alcohol, do drugs, attempt suicide, get in physical fights with others, and carry violence into their future relationships.

As a teenager who is still developing emotionally, your relationships affect you tremendously. A really good, healthy relationship can do wonders for your self-esteem and emotional/mental development. At the same time, a bad, unhealthy relationship can cause some terrible short term and long term negative effects that you will carry with you.

People who are victims of abuse often continue to stay in the relationship and pretend like nothing is wrong. It’s usually because they’re embarrassed to admit that something like that is happening to them. Or sometimes, again, if they’ve grown up seeing an abusive relationship, they might even think it’s normal. Or they could be blind to it because they really are in love with their abuser.

If you think one of your friends is in an unhealthy relationship, talk to them about it. Tell them about some of the signs you’ve seen based on the way their partner treats them. If they’re in denial about it, tell an adult what’s going on and get help. The longer you wait, the worse it could get.

If YOU are in an abusive relationship, don’t be ashamed. It isn’t your fault! It really has nothing to do with you. Your partner has issues, and they are not your problem… Don’t try to fix them, because it won’t work. Get out ASAP. Let the people around you know what’s been happening so they can support and protect you if your partner gets angry when you break things off. 

There are several hotlines you can call if you’re in an abusive relationship and need help. These people are available 24/7 to give you tips, advice, point you in the direction of services and help, or just when you need someone to talk to. 

  • Love Is Respect: you can call them at 1-866-331-9474, text “loveis” to 22522, or chat online at loveisrespect.org.
  • RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network): call them at 1-800-656-HOPE or chat online at rainn.org
  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: call them at 1-800-799-SAFE, or chat online at thehotline.org

Dating is supposed to be FUN! Your significant other is supposed to make you happy, make you feel special and loved, and take care of you. Someone who truly cares about you will do everything in their power to make you happy. Don’t settle for anything less than that. 

 

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Texting and Driving: DON’T Do It!

You’re cruising down the road, driving in your car with a few of your friends. You feel a buzz on your leg and see you got a text message. There’s not much traffic on the road, and you’re not going too fast, so you decide to open the text and read it real quick. It’ll just take you a few seconds. No big deal.

Just a few seconds of taking your eyes of the road can cost someone their life, whether it’s you, your friends, another driver, or a pedestrian… or all of the above.

Did you know that texting and driving is now the leading cause of death among teenagers? More teens die from that than anything else, even drinking and driving. Over 3,000 teens die every single year from texting and driving… and about 11 teens die everyday because of it.

Here are some statistics:

  • more than 50% of teens admit to texting while driving
  • drivers are 23 times more likely to get in an accident if texting while driving
  • in 2011, 23% of car crashes involved cell phones… that’s 1.3 million crashes
  • 1 in 5 drivers even admit to surfing the web while driving (what)
  • texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents per year
  • it causes 330,000 injuries per year

Think about it this way: if you’re sending a text, or even just looking at one, it’ll take you a minimum of about 5 seconds. If you’re driving 55 mph, in 5 seconds you will drive the length of a football field. If a football field were full of cars and people walking, would you drive down it without looking? I sure hope not.

A lot of people think there are ways to make texting and driving more “safe.” For instance, holding your phone up towards your windshield so you can “kind of see” the road. Or only texting while stopped at a stop sign or red light. Sometimes people will increase their following distance behind the car in front of them, or they’ll just read texts but not write any. 

Nope. Accidents and deaths are still caused when drivers do these things to be “safer.”

The bottom line is, just don’t do it. Make sure you text everyone back before you start driving, or just check your phone when you get to that destination. If you need to talk to someone because of an emergency, you can use a hands-free device and call them. But don’t put your and other peoples lives in dangers just to text your crush and say “whats up,” or whatever you feel is so urgent. Because even if you’ve made it this far without any problems, one day you might become one of the statistics and something horrible will happen because of your texting and driving. Just don’t risk it.

And another thing, if your friend is driving you somewhere and starts texting, don’t hesitate to speak up and ask them to not text and drive. Because really, YOUR life is in their hands. It’s not cool of them to do something that could put your life at risk. It isn’t rude to ask them to knock it off.

 

Violence in the Media: Stay Away!!

Violence is everywhere in the media these days. Shows, movies, video games, and even songs are full of it. Movies contain scenes of people beating each other up. Song lyrics talk about murder and rape. Video games are based around shooting and killing the enemy. Everywhere you look, violence is shoved in your face… and, somehow, nobody thinks it’s a big deal.

Studies have proved time and time again that watching violence in the media makes teenagers more accepting of violence. I mean, think about it. How many times have you seen a character get shot in a movie, or how many times have YOU shot somebody in a video game? Probably more times than you can count. How is that okay?

Think about it this way: when you’re watching TV or playing a video game for approximately 3-4 hours a day (which most teens do, at the least), it becomes more than just a game or entertainment. It becomes your environment. You become used to it, even numb to it. It doesn’t affect you so much seeing somebody get stabbed in a game or show, because you see it all the time. Even if you don’t realize it, you are actually becoming desensitized to violence: meaning you aren’t as sensitive to it anymore.

People who watch violence or play violent games are much more likely to engage in violent behavior themselves, since they have become desensitized to it. They are more likely to think it’s okay to punch somebody who they’re angry with, or get violent with a significant other, as opposed to people who don’t watch violence.

Of course, I’m not saying that every single person who plays COD and GTA and watches rated R action movies WILL engage in violent behavior. What I’m saying is that it puts you at risk. It doesn’t really do you any good to participate in those kinds of activities, and they’re pretty awful anyway, so why do them?

Try to stay away from violent media. Also, try to cut back on media all together. Quit staying in your room playing COD all day, for hours and hours at a time, and go outside! Pick up a football or a Frisbee and play with your friends. Go to the mall, get a milkshake, and people watch. Read a book. Get some exercise. Create art. Be social. Don’t be one of those kids who stares at a screen all day.

Shoplifting: Is It Worth It?

Have you ever been hanging out at the mall with a group of friends, and seen one of them casually slip something into their pocket or bag? Many teens would probably answer “yes.”

No matter how people try to play it off like it’s no big deal, shoplifting is a big deal. It is stealing. And stealing, obviously, is against the law. There are no if, and’s, or but’s about it.

There are two types of shoplifters: Professional shoplifters, the ones who take expensive items that they can resell and make money off of, and the casual shoplifters, who don’t usually go into a store with the intention of stealing, but rather see the opportunity to take something and then just do it.

Most teens are casual shoplifters. They don’t plan on stealing things. It “just happens” (or so they say). Studies show that 72% of teens who shoplift didn’t plan on taking anything. Why would they steal, then?

Here’s why:

  • Peer pressure. Many teens steal when they see their friends or other people around them stealing. They want to fit in with the group, or they want to seem cool. Studies do show that “popular” kids are 2-3 times more likely to shoplift than other kids.
  • They want things their classmates have, but they can’t afford it. Again, they want to fit in. They don’t have any money, their parents can’t afford it or won’t buy it for them, so they steal it so they can show it off to their friends.
  • The rush. Some people get a rush from things that are dangerous and that they know can get them in a lot of trouble. They want to see how far they can push the limits, see what they can get away with without getting caught. It’s fun and exciting to them.
  • Challenge authority. Some teens do it to basically say “screw you, I can do whatever I want” to authority and the government.
  • They want attention. Just like a lot of teens who drink, do drugs, or cut, some teens steal when they want attention from their parents or peers.
  • They’re poor. While a lot of people who shoplift actually have plenty of money to pay for what they’re stealing, some offenders really are just poor and can’t afford nice things for themselves.

Whatever their reason is, shoplifting is never okay. It is against the law and, if caught, you will get in lots of trouble. Many people don’t realize how big of a deal shoplifting is.

Here’s what can happen to shoplifters. They might…

  • Be arrested and handcuffed in the store in front of everyone
  • Face charges for theft
  • Be banned from stores and malls
  • Get a criminal record, making it extremely difficult for them to get a job or get into college someday
  • Feel guilty
  • Lose friends who don’t think it’s cool that they steal
  • Lose their self-respect, and even lose respect for others
  • Spend some time in a jail cell
  • If they don’t get caught right away, it could turn into a bigger problem like them stealing from family and friends

Right now, shoplifting has become a bigger problem than it’s ever been. More teens are unemployed, and families have tighter budgets, which researchers believe is a contributing factor to the rise in shoplifting. For this reason, companies and stores aren’t going easy on teens when it comes to prosecuting offenders. Many stores who used to only prosecute shoplifters age 18 and older have lowered the age to 16, or some even younger. If you’re 15 and you steal a $10 belt, they don’t care; you will be in trouble with the police.

I mean, think about it: Even major companies are literally losing thousands of dollars just because of shoplifters. If more people were successful in shoplifting, people who work for those companies would probably lose their jobs. One way that companies are able to get by losing that much money is raising the prices for their items… Yep, that’s right. If you shoplift, shoppers will pay for what you stole by paying more for their items. That’s not cool, is it?

If you have a friend who you know shoplifts, don’t be afraid to confront them about it. It can be awkward, but really, it can save them a trip to jail and a criminal record in the long run. Tell them that you don’t think stealing is right, and you don’t feel comfortable being around them when they do it. Make sure they know that, yes, shoplifting IS a big deal and they CAN get arrested for it if they get caught. You should probably stop shopping with them, too… Because if you’re around while they get caught, you will get questioned and may even get in trouble for not stopping it.

Most things that people steal aren’t things that are necessary to survive… Seriously, you can live without that expensive shirt. Is it really worth it?

Teens & Gangs

When you imagine a gang member, what kind of person do you think of? Probably a man, living in a big city, most likely. Someone who grew up on the streets, is into drugs, and probably didn’t have a good childhood, Maybe he’s in his mid-late 20’s, or 30’s, or even 40’s. Yeah, that sounds like a typical gang member, right?

Wrong. The average gang member is 17-18 years old. About 1/4 of gang members are 15-17… 1/6 members are 14 and younger. 

Yeah, that’s right. Most gang members are your age. They are high school students just like you. Some haven’t even gotten to high school yet. And also, gangs aren’t just made up of guys. About 1/3 gangs members are females.

How exactly do they end up in a gang, and why do they do it?

First off, the definition of a gang is: “A group of people with similar interests and goals; most often they are groups that involve themselves in criminal activity, usually of violent nature. Gangs usually have a symbol, a color, create hand signs for themselves and claim their territory.”

A lot of people believe that gangs only exist in large cities. Yeah, 74% of large cities have gangs roaming their streets. That’s a pretty huge number. But who knew that even 57% of suburban areas, and 34% of small cities have gangs? Even 25% of rural areas now have gangs. Gangs also exist in all 50 states, which wasn’t the case just twenty years ago.

So, whether people are aware of it or not, gangs are pretty much everywhere.

While there certainly are instances where teens are forced to join gangs, most of the time they join voluntarily. Teens usually join to make money, for the thrill and excitement, for protection from bullies, a desire for prestige and power, and/or a chance to belong. Many of them may get picked on at school and not have any friends. Being a part of a gang will, in their minds, give them a group of “friends” who will protect them and take care of them, and maybe even “take care of” the bullies and mean people at school.

Why would a gang want members who are so young? Well, because they do a lot of the dirty work. When teens are in gangs, they are expected to commit violent acts and crimes, including: gang fights, armed robbery, drug dealing, gun play, vandalism, and theft. They might even get mixed up in sex trafficking or be told to murder someone. According to research, 89% of violent crimes in gangs are committed by teenagers.

Some teens might think that joining a gang sounds cool. Really? Do those crimes sound cool and fun to you? Being in a gang is the opposite of cool. It could ruin your future, get you arrested, and even get you killed. It could get your friends and family killed, too. Gangs often get into wars with other gangs, and they will not only be after you and threaten your life, but they will threaten your loved ones, too.

If one of your friends has been acting different lately and you’re afraid they might be involved in gang activity, here are some of the warning signs:

  • Sudden changes in clothing, especially if they wear the same color all the time
  • Hiding their activities from everyone
  • Hanging out with different friends
  • Loss of interest in school and other activities
  • Having large amounts of money with no explanation
  • Run-ins with the police
  • Having the same symbol on many of their belongings
  • Has a new nickname
  • Starts drinking and doing drugs
  • Change in appearance (hair style, hair color, piercings, tattoos, etc)

If your friends tells you they’re in a gang, here’s what you do:

  1. Ask questions. How long have they been in? Have deep are they in, how connected are they and what have they done for the gang so far? If they’re not in that deep, it will be easier for them to get out.
  2. Tell them how you feel, and the truth about gangs. Tell them that you don’t want to lose their friendship, and that you’re worried about them. This gang is not their family, they only tell them that to get them to do stuff for them. They don’t really care about them. Gangs do bad things to innocent people… do they really want to do that? Do they really want to risk getting killed or getting arrested?
  3. Get help. If your friend wants help, talk to a trusted adult. Everyone needs to make sure your friend is safe in case the gang gets upset with them.

Gangs are bad news, straight up. There are no benefits to joining a gang. It’s sad that gangs have been so successful in luring teenagers who need the things that they think gangs will give them. But really, it’s all a bunch of lies. Gangs will do nothing but ruin your life. Don’t get involved, and if your friend is a gang member, do everything you can to get them help and get them out.