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Rates of teen dating sexual violence on the rise

 Teens gathered in hall
Getty Images
Teens gathered in hall

Startling increases in teen dating related violence has experts sounding the alarm.

The percentage of teenage girls who experienced sexual violence increased by 20% from 2017 to 2021, to one in five girls, that's according to the CDC.

In Marathon County, they're seeing similar numbers, and experts say we're out of time.

"We see the numbers increasing, and we absolutely, we need to act now," said Kimberly Pufahl, Youth and Family Advocate for Sexual Assault Victims Services at the Women's Community.

Teen dating violence and sexual violence has also increased in the past ten years.

Kathryn and Marc Volkman lost their 16 year-old daughter, Dani, after years of an emotionally abusive relationship, and now they're encouraging open communication and a line of trust between parent and child.

"I think the biggest thing is communication, you know, just start early and keep that line of communication going, so you can have trust in their actions," said Kathy Volkman.

Another solution they're pushing: increasing awareness and education on unhealthy versus healthy relationships, something already being taught at the high school level in Marathon Co.

"Being in the schools teaching actually, what is consent, what actually is a healthy relationship, how do you know you are being a healthy partner, how do you know how consent actually is, to hopefully prevent these instances of sexual violence and dating violence in the first place," said Pufahl.

The Volkmans want to expand those lessons to middle schools as well.

"Kids start dating in sixth grade, that's when they really need to learn to do it, so there needs to be more curriculum available," said Kathy.

Experts said they know trying to tackle this issue will be difficult, but they hope by spreading awareness, everyone can try to help.

"It has to be an issue that we can come together as a community to be able to work on and I think continuing to have these conversations is at least the necessary first step," said Pufahl.

If you or anyone you know needs help, call the Women's Community Hotline at 1-888-665-1234 or dial the 9-8-8 crisis hotline.

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