Domestic violence education stressed |

Domestic violence education stressed

Gregory Crofton

Purple ribbons mean one thing in October: domestic violence awareness.

Did you boyfriend grab your arm until it hurt? Did he beat you for wanting to register for classes? Or did your girlfriend scratch you on purpose or threaten you? It can go both ways.

Each October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center and the Police Department step up efforts to prevent the crime. This year they have already distributed a survey at South Tahoe High School and plan to broadcast a three-part series on domestic violence on the public access channel sometime this month.

On Tuesday, both groups visited ninth graders at South Tahoe High to educate, listen and pass out a survey on National Teen Relationship Violence. They plan to visit with seniors next week.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time,” Lois Denowitz, director of the Women’s Center. “When you look at the surveys, you can see jealousy is the biggest issue as far as abuse.”

Results from the surveys will be compiled and compared to other communities in Northern California, a process that may involve students, Denowitz said.

Two teen-agers who work at the Women’s Center accompanied Denowitz and Officer Chuck Owens, a domestic violence specialist, during the high school visit. They discussed peer pressure, sexual harassment and statutory rape, among other things.

Sarah Utzig, an 18-year-old advocate for the Women’s Center, said some of the classes were silent until they were prodded into discussion by their teacher. Students fired questions once the subject of statutory rape came to the table.

“Because of the age differences in high school that’s something they are concerned about,” Utzig said.

Denowitz said it’s important to get the message out to students that there is help to prevent violence in families or personal relationships. Often children who witness domestic violence grow into it themselves.

“Kids who grow up in a household where domestic violence occurs regularly, they are more susceptible as they become adults to fall into domestic violence,” Owens said. “They fail to learn the concept of right and wrong.”

Denowitz say the first step is to identify a problem.

“If you don’t know what it is, how do you know what is not OK?” Denowitz said. “Then educate yourself about the different forms of abuse and seek out domestic violence support groups.”

Support groups are available and free at the Women’s Center every Monday at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The 4 p.m. group offers “art and play” for children. The center can be reached at (530) 544-2118 or on its 24-hour crisis hotline at (530) 544-4444.

VINE, Victim Information and Notification Everyday, is a free service provided by El Dorado County Sheriff’s Department. It lets victims keep track of their attackers once they have entered jail or prison. To register with VINE, call toll free at (877) 331-8463.

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