I have been an active member of the Amanda Forum, a Caring Place initiative, since day one, and after last year’s conference, I felt called to be an activist for teen dating violence prevention.
After meeting Amanda Bach’s mother, Sandra, I knew this issue needed to be brought to my community’s attention. Seeing the loss Sandy had to endure, I wanted to prevent this tragedy from happening to anyone else.
In the aftermath of the tragic death of Amanda, I am proud of how our community has banded together to create awareness of this growing issue by creating The Amanda Forum. Through our first two years, the community has played an active role in funding and supporting our main outreach strategies of conferences and discussion forums, Art with a Message project, and social media campaigns. Our Amanda Forum video has reached nearly 17,000 people already, and we’ve been contacted by groups across the nation.
As a second year Amanda Forum Youth Task Force member, June 8 and 9 were exciting days for both members of the community as well as members of the Amanda Forum, as we hosted our second annual Dare to Date Safe Conference at Aberdeen Manor.
Susan Magestro, a criminologist all the way from Anchorage, Alaska, flew cross-country through the night to work with groups of young people and adults throughout the two days, as well as community members during an evening session and local leaders at an early morning leadership breakfast. Magestro specializes in family interventions and consulting with teens and adults with high-risk behaviors both in and out of prisons.
This year’s conference was unique in a couple very important ways. Last year’s Dare to Date Safe Youth Conference was composed primarily of young women from across Porter County. This year’s conference attendees made a bold statement that dating violence is not a female issue, but one that impacts all of us.
Valpo football coaches Dave Coyle and Casey McKim, and Hobart football coach Ryan Turley, stood up in support of the NFL’s No More campaign and the Amanda Forum by attending the conference and bringing a whole table each of their high school football players this year.
Along with the many other young men in attendance, these young men played an active role in all group discussions and activities. With over half the nearly 75 attendees being male, this huge shift in demographics at the conference makes a bold statement in the region; it highlights the fact that dating violence is not only a “woman’s issue.”
One in three young people, both boys and girls, are affected by dating abuse in some form, according to current data from www.loveisrespect.org, while 81 percent of parents don’t think dating violence is an issue. Clearly, creating awareness in parents and young people is vital.
I’d like to thank the adult professionals and especially my peers who attended from across the region — from Valparaiso, Boone Grove, Morgan Township, Washington Township, Kouts, Chesterton, Hobart, Wheeler, Purdue North Central and Purdue Lafayette — for daring to learn about safe dating and healthy relationships this month.
Remember, don’t settle; you are precious.
The Caring Place is a partner agency of both United Way of Porter County and Lake Area United Way.