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Teens learn about healthy dating at Choose Respect conference

Hundreds of students and parents gathered in Rockville, Maryland, Sunday to talk about healthy relationships and learn different ways to prevent teen dating violence at the Choose Respect conference at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.

ROCKVILLE, Md.— Hundreds of students and parents gathered in Rockville, Maryland, Sunday to talk about healthy relationships and learn different ways to prevent teen dating violence at the Choose Respect conference at Richard Montgomery High School.

“After just nine years doing this conference, we’ve gone from 50 students to more than 600 students actually coming to this,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin.

He said the conference aims to teach people what healthy dating looks.

“It’s so easy right now with texting and social media to be bullied and to actually get messages from people and treated a certain way that really is not healthy,” he said.

Popkin said the warning signs about a troublesome romantic connection can start with the nagging feeling that something isn’t right with the way you relate to each other.

“[If] someone’s texting you maybe a hundred times a day wanting to know where you are, wanting to control you, seeming to want to gain all the power in the relationship, there’s probably something unhealthy about it.”

Conference presenters included alumni of Montgomery County high schools.

Hannah Reid, a graduate of Northwest High School, said the abuse started in small ways.

“The person would see me texting another guy and would snatch my phone,” she said.

She said the person would also check her phone every single day and tell her what to wear—or what not to wear—and how to wear her hair.

Hannah, now a college sophomore, advises teens to set relationship boundaries—and stick to them.

If you start seeing signs, it’s OK to tell your partner about the problematic behaviors, but setting boundaries is important.

“You have to make sure you follow through on it,” Reid said about setting boundaries. “Because if you don’t follow through, then they’re just going to keep doing it.”

If you suspect a friend or schoolmate is in an abusive relationship, Reid said not to be afraid to ask questions.

“How often do they check your phone? Do they read your messages? Wow, they have your pass code? They tell you what to wear? Just asking them how they feel, then providing them with the resources if they do decide to leave that relationship,” said Reid.

She said interrogation isn’t the purpose.

“When they hear the answers themselves, they’re like ‘oh wow—that’s not okay.’”

If you notice someone is acting in an abusive manner, it can also be helpful to ask questions, Reid said.

“Imagine if it was your mom, or your little sister or your big sister if you saw a guy doing exactly what you’re doing, what would you say?”

Montgomery County’s Family Justice Center provides a range of services, mainly for adults, in domestic violence situations.

Sheriff Popkin said that through the “proactive work of education in our schools and the Choose Respect conference we’re doing everything we can to break that cycle,” enabling teens to choose good, strong relations even into adulthood.


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