Vera House hosting teen dating violence town hall on Twitter

Feb 4, 2014

Vera House is encouraging adults and teens to talk about the issue of teen dating violence. The Syracuse agency hopes to get the conversation going by hosting a Twitter town hall session Tuesday.

As many as one in three teens will experience some kind of violence stemming from a romantic relationship, according to Vera House education director Loren Cunningham. But it’s often hard to get teens to open up about it.

"They very commonly talk to their friends, but not the adults in their lives," Cunningham said. "And so part of the reason we are doing this Twitter town hall and engaging in this program called 'It’s time to talk,' is that we want to encourage parents and adults and young people to start opening up conversations about teen dating violence.”

Cunningham says one roadblock to this conversation is technology. Parents often don’t understand the dynamics of a world ruled by cell phones, where instant communication can be expected or demanded by a partner.

“Expectations get set around, you need to have your phone on all the time," Cunningham said. "I need to get in touch with you all the time. If I text you, you should be able to be texting me back immediately, so these expectations around communication and the control that comes into play there is really intense, and is very different I think than what many of us adults are accustomed to.”

She adds that technology easily strains relationships when a person becomes inaccessible.

"What if you turn off the phone?" Cunningham said. "What happens then? What does your girlfriend think of that, if you just shut off the phone and don’t reply to her texts. How does she respond, and what do you think of that response? So trying to have some conversations around the technology and the expectations that get tied to that.”

Cunningham says another issue teens face is determining whether there is consent or not for sexual activity.

“How do you really know you have consent from another person?" Cunningham explained. "There are a lot of cues that can be picked up on, but I think it’s much safer to have a clear conversation with someone to determine what they want to be doing or not doing.”

Cunningham says it’s important for teens to talk to adults about these kinds of issues, noting they often turn to other teens who might not be able to steer them toward resources that can help.

The Vera House Twitter town hall runs from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, and is one of hundreds of conversations being had on the issue across the country. You can join the conversation by tweeting  @verahouseinc and using #VHtalks.