Eli is a guest writer for Philanthropy Files for the month of February. They are the Data Specialist in the Philanthropy Department, and are currently working on obtaining a Master’s in History.
I grew up in rural Idaho. The town I lived in had a population of less than 10,000. In a town that small, and with a population with higher than average levels of poverty, there is a feeling of helplessness that many kids and teens grow up with. Most of my classmates by the age of 13 believed that they would not “get out” of the town, let alone Idaho. Because funding and resources were so tight, there never was a chance for teens to be taught about consent, boundaries, and the basics of healthy relationships. This combination could be seen in the playing out in the relationships of my classmates and friends. 1 in 3 teens experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse by a dating partner (loveisrespect.org).
I want to use this narrative not as a story of hopelessness or despair, but the exact opposite. While I did leave my hometown, I still live in Idaho, and will probably continue to for a very long time as I love living here. Within only ten years I have seen so much change in Idaho. Teens are now actively reaching out to mentors about issues of sexual assault and dating violence, and pushing to create a healthier community and world. Donors create opportunities for teens to get the support and resources that they need in order to achieve this. Local philanthropy provides not only resources and people for this to happen, but also creates a community where children and teens have access to safety, healing, and freedom from domestic abuse and sexual violence.
We know that talking to teens about healthy relationships and dating abuse is part of the process to break the cycle of violence. The WCA’s Outreach team works with local schools and students to support their efforts to teach about healthy relationships. Teens that have the tools for healthy relationships become adults who can then pass those skills on to the next generation creating positive change and the potential for healthy communities. Philanthropy is directly tied to creating hope. We can see the change that donors make in both teens’ lives and also in the future of Idaho. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, and I ask you to think about how you can be a part of the process of breaking the cycle of violence.
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