Family Corner

Choose respect, choose yourself


Dating — it is fun and exciting. It can also be loving and fulfilling if one finds the right person to be with. What’s not fun or loving is arguing or fighting that escalates into dating violence, especially among teens.

52nd Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Intervention specialists visited Bitburg Middle High School Feb. 11, to speak with students about the crucial topic of teen dating violence.

“[After we] had a proclamation signed by the school’s principal designating February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, we met with over 200 students and talked about what teen dating violence is and what do if you are a victim of it, or know someone who is,” said Brittny Gainey, 52nd MDOS Family Advocacy intervention specialist.
Gainey said that teen dating violence is described as physical, sexual, psychological or emotional violence within a dating relationship to include stalking.


When we spoke with the students, we also showed them a video with various scenarios. The video, called “Choose Respect” had a lot of scenarios related to teen dating violence such as he only hit me one time; or I can only wear certain outfits or these are the only people I can hang out with; or checking cell phones for text messages, things like that.

There are several signs of dating abuse: mood swings, possessiveness, extreme jealousy or insecurity, explosive temper, and isolating a person from family or friends.

“That just reinforces the fact that it’s important to speak with a large group of teenagers because you never know who can identify that friend in a situation like that,” Gainey said.

With teen dating violence on the rise, Gainey said technology and social media have made it easier to commit abuse acts.

“New social media platforms such as ‘Snap Chat,’ allow people take [racy] pictures and send them to their boyfriends or girlfriends thinking that it only lasts a few seconds, but it doesn’t,” said Gainey. “The person it was sent to can take a screen shot of that message and store it for later use.”

Unfortunately, if that person is faced with a breakup, he or she can send that picture to everyone, which is considered abuse, Gainey said.

According to The Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center, a new study examining teen dating abuse found that of the 5,647 middle and high school students in a relationship, 26 percent of them reported being digitally abused (i.e., social media, email and text messages) by their partners.

Additionally, 3 percent of teenagers in an abusive relationship will tell an authority figure, 6 percent will tell a family member and 75 percent will tell a friend.

Janine Zweig, an Urban Institute researcher and one of the co-founders of the study stated, “New technologies — social networking sites, texts, cell phones and emails — have given abusers another way to control, degrade and frighten their partners.”

We know this type of behavior occurs within teenage relationships. We may not see people face-to-face, but we know that it does happen.

Teens who find themselves in a situation like this and are trying to find a way out, should talk to a teacher or counselor or responsible adult, Gaines stated. Choose a responsible adult they feel safe with. Hopefully, they’ll guide you through the process.

“Abuse doesn’t have a gender, title or socio-economic status … no one deserves to be abused. Everyone deserves to feel safe,” Gainey said.


SOS program supports Eifel School students


What would you do if your son came home and said one of his friends was talking about ending his life? What would you do if your daughter started to withdraw from her friends and family, had trouble concentrating in school, slept a lot, and was always angry? Many people would think this is normal teenage behavior. However, what if it wasn’t? Enter the Signs of Suicide Program.

The Signs of Suicide program promotes suicide awareness and prevention in middle schools and high schools throughout the Department of Defense Education Activity, according to Andee Rohwedder, Bitburg-Spangdahlem schools psychologist.

For five years, this program has brought suicide awareness to students and has been teaching them what to look for and how to seek help for themselves or their friends who may be contemplating suicide.

This year 7th, 10th and 12th grade students found themselves broken up into smaller groups, both male and female, to have a more intimate discussion about suicide. The idea was to have them delve more into suicide awareness with an interactive video, scenarios and pamphlets.

“I found it surprising how little we knew about what age groups were more susceptible to suicide,” said Morgan McGrath, a Bitburg Middle High School senior. “It [the program] touched on things we already knew, but this time, it was more engaging.”

Rohwedder said she was glad to take a different approach to a highly emotional and consequential subject. Thinking that the boys’ groups would be her toughest to break their silence, she found them more inclined to talk.

Some students even came up to her after each session to ask questions and request more information on the topic. The only thing she asked in return is that they share this information with their parents, which her students were willing to do.

“The breakout sessions were kind of like a free-for-all,” said Jeneba Hoene another BMHS senior. “I was able to ask questions I wouldn’t have otherwise known.”

To view more information on the SOS program, visit

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