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Reporting that teen dating abuse represents part of a crisis that puts victims at risk of physical and mental harm, La Salle County Judge Leodoro Martinez III signed a proclamation this week in support of February as a month for promoting awareness and prevention of the offense and its impact on the young.
“Respectful, supportive and non-violent relationships are key to safety, health and academic success,” the judge read from his proclamation in the county courthouse Tuesday, Feb. 7. “Teen dating violence is a significant health issue where victimization increases teens’ risk for injury, substance abuse, eating disorders, unwanted pregnancy, and suicide.”
Teen dating violence was first made a public issue of concern and awareness campaigning in 2006, when a single week in February was designated as a time for promotion of intervention efforts. Since that year, the US Congress has designated all of February to the purpose.
“Together, as parents and community leaders, we have the power to influence teens’ lives and to make a difference,” Judge Martinez said on Tuesday.
The county judge was joined by members of the Cotulla Woman’s Club, county government leaders, law enforcement officers and constables, county commissioners, representatives of the Wintergarden Women’s Shelter, children’s advocacy groups and administrators from Cotulla schools in promoting education and a better understanding of teen dating abuse in the community.
The judge noted that the Woman’s Club will work closely with county government this month to intensify public awareness of the issue. Club members and other attendees at the proclamation signing wore orange as a color to signify their support.
A traditional symbol of awareness and intervention in issues of domestic abuse and dating violence is the silhouette of an anonymous victim representing any and all who may suffer at the hands of one or more abusers. Members of the Woman’s Club are positioning an orange-painted silhouette display on the high school campus this week.
“I urge all citizens to promote healthy teen relationships by having conversations about respectful and non-violent relationships in homes, schools and communities,” Judge Martinez said.
La Salle County Sheriff Anthony Zertuche said he and his officers often encounter cases in which teen violence related to dating and relationships has played a part, adding that he believes public awareness of the issue is a critical step towards successful intervention.
“Law enforcement officers often see at first hand the harm that teen dating violence can have on young lives,” the sheriff said Tuesday. “It’s important that families communicate, talk to their children about the risks, the warning signs, the different ways in which abuse can happen, and what to do about it when they encounter it.
“The more knowledge, the better,” the sheriff added. “We have to help the community understand that there is help out there, that we are here to help and to intervene. This is a close community of people who truly care about our children, and it is in all of our interests that everyone be aware of the dangers out there and that no one should ever feel alone in having to deal with a personal crisis.”