SUGARCREEK TOWNSHIP – According to the experts, one out four girls — and one out of six boys — become physically or sexually abused in a dating relationship before the end of high school.
The types of abuse range from verbal violence, to physical violence — all the way to murder.
And, make no mistake, authorities say, it happens everywhere. It is a vicious cycle, they say, “a cycle of violence” that needs to end.
“We know it happens everywhere in the county, even in the smaller communities,” said Cherie Dixon, prevention and domestic violence intervention coordinator for the Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County. “No place is exempt. It crosses all barriers — doesn’t matter where you live, where you’re from, how much money you have — it crosses all barriers.”
So what can be done?
“Awareness,” Dixon said. “Nobody wants to openly talk about it. We want to raise awareness.”
The Family Violence Prevention Center hosted its fifth annual “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” event Feb. 25 at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Sugarcreek Township.
With more than 200 participants this year, and countless more family, friends and supporters, the event was a huge success, Dixon said, raising more than $1,000. These numbers have nearly doubled from previous years.
“Nobody is going to openly talk about this,” Dixon said after the event, “especially young people who are embarrassed … Often they aren’t aware that it’s unhealthy.”
Through awareness with events like the annual walk, organizers believe more people will report this unhealthy behavior. The walk highlights Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
“This is a good cause,” said Bellbrook High School student Nathaniel Dixon, 15, as he taped a pair of high heel shoes to his feet en route to the starting line. “I would like to one day see an end to teen dating violence. There have been so many strides made. I’ve definitely heard and seen things happening … in my school, we hear more about mental abuse, more so than physical.”
Dixon said there are 10 different types of abuse identified. Even technology is a way of “bullying” or abusing a dating partner.
The FVPC Family is a non-profit organization that has been around for more than 30 years, Dixon said, and today it offers everything from safe housing, counseling and education to intervention services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.
Five Seasons has donated the use of the facility for all five years. It’s all indoors. Twelve laps equal one mile.
“We usually have 100 to 150 participants,” Dixon said as participants filed in before the event. “But this has been growing every year.”
Prior to the walk, all the participants said the pledge to” stay violent-free in dating relationships,” which was read by the youth advisory board members. Prizes were given for things like “cutest shoes” and “best swagger.”
Bellbrook High School won the award for most student participants, with more than 60 kids from school. Much of the credit for this goes to the BHS football team. Head Coach Jeff Jenkins encouraged the whole team to come support and participate, adding more than 50 students to the roster of walkers. The mothers of several of those players showed up at starting time, surprising everyone with laughter by wearing football pads, legging tights with pads and uniforms.
“(Wearing all this) has given us a new found respect for what our sons go through to play football,” said Nancy Mumy. “We are excited about their senior year.”
Mumy said she and six other mothers had been planning this, which caught everyone off guard.
“How do they move around in this,” said one mother, Denise Schmidt. “Let alone run and catch a football.”
Other community leaders were present as well, including State Rep. Rick Perales of Ohio House District 73. He came with his wife, Becka, and showed support.
“You know this isn’t just a local issue,” Perales said. “When it does happen, there are lasting implications … The cycle of violence continues, unless we do something about it.”
Brian Evans is a freelance writer for Greene County News.