Monthly Archives February 2023

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: How Can Adults Help?

Co-authored by Marina Sampanes Peed and Amanda Makrogianis Mickelsen

One in three teens experiences verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner.

That’s a lot of young people.

Our society’s cultural norms foster these harms in a way that goes unnoticed, largely because these models are woven into the fabric of our collective mindset. Becoming aware of problematic norms and talking openly about their implications can help to change the conversation and lead to a shift towards healthy relationships.

What Exactly Is Teen Dating Violence?
Most people think of violence in the most visible form – physical harms. In fact, relationship violence includes many forms of violations of interpersonal trust and care. Dating violence (any relationship actually) may include verbal assaults and degradation, sexual coercion, assault, and abuse, psychological abuse, stalking, financial, and cyber-bullying.

The Norms We Know
The teen years are full of cognitive and physiological changes, hormonal evolutions and the navigation of social and structural expectations. Add to the mix that technology provides young people 24/7 access to pornography and constant sexual messages in marketing, social media, and entertainment…and quite the recipe emerges.

Pervasive cultural beliefs around sexuality and gender roles perpetuate unhealthy relationships and contribute to the normalization of dating violence among teens.

“Boys will be boys” and “She loves me” and “It’s not that bad”.

Society perpetuates beliefs that coercion is part of a mating dance. Girls learn very early to expect sexual aggression and violence while simultaneously being expected to prevent it.  When attachment occurs, it is tempting to excuse a partner’s harmful behavior.

The Cycle of Relationship Violence
The Teen Power and Control Wheel shows how the cycle perpetuates itself without intervention.

People who abuse may believe:

  • they possess their partner
  • strength equals physical aggressiveness
  • they have the right to control their partner in any way, including demanding intimacy
  • being a “nice guy” can cause young males to lose social capital

Their partners may believe:

  • their partner’s jealousy and possessiveness is romantic
  • they are “lucky” to have a cute, popular or powerful person “into them”
  • they are the ones responsible for solving problems in the relationship
  • abuse is normal because friends or other peers may also experience it

Our Impact
It is promising to know that this unhealthy mindset can merely be a developmental phase, leaving much opportunity for growth and change.

Young minds are like sponges absorbing information through societal observation – at home, within the family, and what is seen and read on TV, movies and in books. Their sense of self-worth is garnered from parents, family, friends and peer groups. Yet sex and consent are not topics that are talked about openly and can be seen as taboo in many households and societal institutions like church or school.

How Can Adults Provide Guidance?

  • Model healthy, nonviolent communication and self-respect
  • Be good listeners
  • Point out healthy relationships
  • Talk about the established cultural norms – and don’t be afraid to challenge them
  • Affirm individual worth and importance
  • Encourage young people to express their feelings
  • Provide tools to navigate various social settings
  • Offer a safe space for teens to talk among themselves

Challenging the Norms
Although parents may feel further away from their children during the teen years, it’s important to remember that their perceptions around established norms can shift as difficult conversations about dating violence are kept front and center. In the paraphrased words of Martin Luther King Jr. ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’.

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The Healing Souls of Black Folk

By: Ashia Gallo

My interest in wellness and healing really exploded during my time living in Mozambique, an African nation along the southeast border of the continent. I was a Health Outreach Peace Corps volunteer in my mid-20s; my main work objective was planning public health projects for the local hospital in my rural farming community.

Understanding the role of traditional healers, or curanderos, and their contributions to how health and healing was approached in Mozambican culture was essential to my role. While encouraging locals to visit the hospital for drugs that would save their lives after HIV and malaria diagnoses, I quickly learned of the distrust and inaccessibility to Western medicines many Mozambicans faced. Thus, exploring how to integrate natural healing with public health education became an essential part of my work.

Black folk around the world have experienced unique threats to their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health for generations. The diverse ways in which cultures have survived and thrived despite these realities across the Black Diaspora spans multiple continents and generations elicits awe. The lasting traditions carried forward by descendants of various cultures from mainland Africa can be seen in the food, dance, rituals, innovations, and folklore of Black people around the world.

In terms of food, Black cultures across the Americas created everything from life-saving medicines to world-renowned cuisines, all from the natural herbs and products of their lands. The comfort and resourcefulness of soul food evolved from Southern slaves’ determination to make magic out of scraps, and to use delicious flavors to bring families together in nourishment and celebration. Farmers, cowboys, and creole cooks also add to the mosaic of cuisines.

Music and dance have also always been tools for expression, spirituality, and unity in Black communities. Gospel music sustained sacred space for oppressed communities. Soul and hip hop emboldened Black self-love and revolution. Dance is another healing modality that has been used as an expression of joy, sorrow, pain, and freedom through Black bodies. From ballroom to break dancing, there is no space where Black stories haven’t been told though the art of movement. Black culture has always been embedded in popular culture worldwide.
Spirituality and religion are forms of healing at the crux of many Black cultures. Traditional and ancestral belief systems integrate with larger organized religion throughout the world. Fixed creeds like Christianity and Islam have strong footholds across the Black Diaspora. The abundance of ways that traditional African spirituality has conceived ancestors, deities, gods, and spirit beings also runs through.

The trendiness of “wellness” is something I look forward to challenging as the coordinator for Mosaic Georgia’s Wholeness Collective programming. The facets of Black culture that have been commodified and repackaged for a mainstream audience have frequently undermined the purpose and purity of these modalities’ origins. It is my hope that Black dance teachers, cooks, artists, and other healing practitioners continue to offer their gifts to our clients from a gentle and informed space that makes trauma survivors feel safe, seen, and soulful.

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