AVDA Champions Youth Abuse Prevention Education

Jan 31, 2022

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Texans have had enough of teen dating violence and its sometimes deadly consequences

as witnessed by the recent enactment of Texas Senate Bill 9 recommending that public schools to educate students about abuse. This February as part of its Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month activism, AVDA is reaching out to school districts and educating the public on why and how to comply with the new recommendation.

Dating violence, a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner, is much more common than people realize, especially among teens and young adults. One in three teens in the US will experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse from a dating partners while over 80% of parents reportedly either don’t know if teen dating violence is a concern or believe that it is not an issue. Teen dating violence can have serious ramifications and place victims at higher risk for future harm, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and future domestic violence.

Too many young people are being emotionally and physically abused by their dating partners, let alone killed. From 2018 to 2020 in Harris County alone, 13 young people between the ages of 15 and 22 lost their lives at the hands of their dating partners, according to Texas Council on Family Violence’s annual Honoring Texas Victims reports.

AVDA has provided youth abuse prevention programming for the last eight years, and we want all students in the Greater Houston area to receive this education. As part of its legal aid, AVDA helps our young people obtain protective orders to keep them safe from ex-partners, too.

Thanks to the new Texas Senate Bill 9, it is recommended to public schools across Texas to provide instruction and materials relating to the prevention of child abuse, family violence, dating violence and sex trafficking and the adoption of public school policies to prevent dating violence. Texas Senate Bill 9 is also known as the Christine Blubaugh Act in memory of the teenager who, in March 2000 just weeks before her 17th birthday, was murdered in a field in south Grand Prairie by her ex-boyfriend. He then committed suicide. Friends and family later pieced together warning signs they did not recognize at the time.

Closer to home, Sabrina Herrera’s family had no idea that she had been abused by her high school sweetheart, but the truth came out after he killed her on her first day of college, confessing “No one else deserved her. If she wouldn’t be with me, she couldn’t be with anyone else.” That was August 2018, and her murder received worldwide attention a few weeks later when Drake dedicated his Houston concert in celebration of her. Sabrina was to have met him at a meet-and-greet that night.

Now her cousin Erika Rivera is volunteering as an advocate with AVDA to get the word out to young people to speak up. “At the trial, Sabrina’s best friends testified that she had texted them photos of the bruises, telling them to not tell anyone because she loved him,” states Rivera. “My message to the friends of a teenager who is being abused is that you will not get in trouble. Find a trusted adult and let them know. No one deserves to be abused, and you may save a life.”