Teen Dating 101: Taking Action Against Domestic Violence

We are Taking Action Against Domestic Violence, and we want to talk about a program at Countryside High School that's changing the way teens view their dating relationships.

Lissette Campos shows us why "teen dating 101" is making such a big impact.

From friendships to first loves, high school memories can last a lifetime, but not all of them are good.

Melissa Dohme barely survived her high school sweetheart! "He stabbed me right here in the shoulder. Right here in the back of the neck.

He went back over and started right here by the ear," she said.

Melissa is now using that near death experience to save teens who may be heading down the same road of an abusive relationship, like she did.

She's been a guest speaker at local schools, including Countryside High School in Clearwater. "She just showed so much courage that she was able to escape a situation like that," said student Angela Booth.

Countryside created the "teen dating 101 program" six years ago, with the help of the Haven Domestic Violence Center and the North Pinellas Chapter of the Greater Federation of Women's Clubs. The idea started with this survivor of domestic violence.

"I can almost see their faces change when the speakers mention things that relate to them directly, like do their boyfriends insist on taking their cell phones and seeing who they're messaging, reading their emails and texts, that's very controlling and these are indicators of an abusive relationship that some of these children have never realized before," said Laurie Auth of the Greater Federation of Women's Clubs.

Each October, the cougars mark national DV awareness month by hosting teen dating 101. First during class and then, in the evening, so that families can come. This instructor from the haven has seen it all.

"The biggest change I've noticed - and it's been in the past 5 years - is the girls becoming more violent. I almost have as many boys in the classrooms saying they've been abused, as I do girls," said Teen Dating 101 instructor Jennifer Saulpaugh.

Teens who've attended the program help spread the lessons learned "friend to friend". Advocates say, sometimes, that's the best way to get through. "They just don't know! They think the person who wants to be with them all the time and is extremely jealous, that it's because of "love".

And we know it's not but somebody needs to tell them that," said Chris Warwick, the director at The Haven. An amazing thing happened after one of those students you just saw and her grandmother attended the "Teen Dating 101" class at Countryside.

It involves a checklist, The Haven, and a very grateful family! See for yourself on October 16.

That's the night of our 5th annual Taking Action Against Domestic Violence one hour special, beginning at 7 p.m. As always, the statewide domestic violence campaign is a key component.

It's 1-800-500-1119. If you or someone you know may be a victim of abuse - or you have questions, call the hotline. Experts are standing by to take your call.

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