Cindy Stolp - Toward healthier relationships


To remind us that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults, February is national Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness month.

One in three adolescents in the nation becomes a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Two-thirds of teens in an abusive relationship never tell anyone. It’s time to shine a light on this issue.

As teen advocate for Henderson House, I have the opportunity to work with some really great teenagers. They’re eager to develop new skills and healthy attitudes in their dating relationships, even when it means challenging some of their own abusive behaviors. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find someone who models healthy behaviors such as trusting one another, accepting responsibility for one’s own actions and spending time separately with one’s own friends. McMinnville High School students admitted to having experienced the following in a dating relationship, according to a 2012 survey:

  • emotional abuse: 1,235 students, 65 percent,
  • physical abuse, 703 students. 37 percent,
  • sexual abuse, 570 students, 30 percent.

Recognizing abuse in a relationship can be difficult, especially for teens. Young people may believe some types of abuse are normal, like constant texting and possessiveness. Even though teen relationships may differ from adult relationships, teens can experience the same types of abuse:

  • physical: any intentional use of physical force with the intent to cause fear or injury, like hitting, shoving, biting, strangling, kicking or using a weapon;
  • verbal or emotional: nonphysical behaviors such as threats, insults, constant monitoring, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking;
  • sexual: any action that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including rape, coercion and restricting access to birth control; and
  • cyber: use of technologies or social media networking to intimidate, harass or threaten a current or former dating partner. This could include demanding passwords, checking cell phones, bullying tactics, sexting, excessive or threatening texts, or stalking on Facebook or other social media.

Effects of teen dating violence include less attention to academics, increased exposure to drugs and alcohol, a greater likelihood of teen pregnancy, growing isolation and sexual assault.

Even one of these behaviors can have a profound impact on the physical, social and emotional growth of a young person. Together, they create a perfect storm that affects not only the victims of abuse but also their friends, families, schools and surrounding communities.

Teens face unique obstacles if they decide to get help. They may not have money, transportation or a safe place to go.

You can take a role in responding to and preventing teen dating violence.

  • Be a healthy, nonviolent role model by letting teens know you respect your own partner’s thoughts, ideas and opinions; supporting each other’s goals in life; apologizing when wrong; and showing that each of you have equal decision-making power.
  • Be a safe person to talk to. Listen and believe the victim; do not judge. Ask them what they want to see happen.
  • Know the resources in your community, as listed in the information box, below. All communication with Henderson House is completely confidential. Staff are not mandated reporters and will not share any information with anyone,
  • If you’re a parent, become comfortable talking to your kids about dating issues. Take the time to learn about teen dating violence and how you can find help from websites that offer information about it.
  • Volunteer your time. Henderson House is always looking for volunteers to assist with teen groups and high school presentations.

Learning about healthy relationships is a long-term investment that can shape meaningful families and adult relationships. Teaching teens about healthy relationships can help prevent future domestic violence and substance abuse while promoting their future career or educational development.

Teens have a right to safe relationships. Our community should take the lead in raising awareness and preventing teen dating violence. Are you ready to help change their world?

For more information


  • www.hendersonhouse.org
  • www.breakthecycle.org
  • www.loveisrespect.org
  • www.thesafespace.org

Henderson House:

  • 24-hour crisis line, 503-472-1503
  • Walk-in advocacy center, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 503-472-0244
  • Teen relationships group, 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 610 S.E. First St., McMinnville

Guest writer Cindy Stolp has worked at Henderson House for 10 years. She and to her husband of 21 years, Jess, have three children and one grandchild. She enjoys reading and doing cross-fit.

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