Anika Alex Ortiz was one of four teen representatives on the Leadership Panel for the Tilly’s Life Center (TLC) and Laura’s House Festival of the Hearts event held at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., on Saturday, February 24, 2018. The event was part of the Healthy Emotions and Attitudes in Relationships Today (H.E.A.R.T) program.
Organized by teens, the conference was geared toward both teens and parents and focused on healthy relationships, cyber safety, positive thinking and affirmations, safe dating, social media and bullying, media literacy, substance abuse and warning signs.
Monica Utley, executive director at TLC states, “One in three adolescents are in abusive relationships." "We want to empower and educate youth to recognize dating violence and know what to do if they see warning signs,” said Margaret Bayston, executive director at Laura’s House. “This event was just one of the many ways Anika, through Anika's Pink Closet, is reaching teens.
What’s startling is that most teens don’t know they are victims of abuse. Dating violence begins slowly, with jealousy and controlling behavior. Then the aggressor isolates the teen from friends and family. These feelings and actions are red flags that can escalate to verbal and physical threats, putdowns, cyberbullying, emotional manipulation and physical violence.
“A teen can get confused and think that jealousy is a sign of ‘endearing love,’” said Jennifer Ponce, a prevention education specialist at Laura’s House.
“But if the dating partner demands to go through the other partner’s phone or won’t let him/her spend time with friends, that’s not love,” she said. “That’s control.
Laura’s House in Orange County, which provides shelter, counseling and legal services to victims of domestic violence. www.laurashouse.org or (866) 498-1115 or Text "HEART" to949-484-8440 to chat with an advocate on-line.