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February is teen dating violence awareness month, and it reminds me of what are still the most harrowing four years of my life.One in four teens self-reports physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse every year.Sarah Van Zanten, 15, was lying on the floor, an ice pack on her aching ribs.

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It is never OK to go alone to visit a depressed or aggressive ex. Early adolescence is the critical juncture to talk to our children about what constitutes a healthy relationship.

If you are worried about your teen talk, with their health care professional who can then put you in touch with local agencies that deal with partner and family violence.

“I never would have thought,” Sarah says now, “something like this would happen to me.” Once a hidden problem, teen dating violence is getting some serious attention.

A 2005 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that of 6,888 high school girls surveyed nationally, 1 in 11 had been hit, slapped or punched by an intimate partner.

For her study, Dorothy Espelage, professor of educational psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and her colleagues conducted a longitudinal study among 625 students starting in grades 5, 6, and 7, and followed them over a period of four years.

Researchers interviewed the students at intervals over that time.

The best way we, as a global community, can stand up for victims and show that sexual assault, rape and dating abuse are not tolerable is by preventing it in the first place.

We know that a coordinated community response -- one that relies on partnerships with student groups, campus police, community victim services organizations, campus ministries, and school officials -- is what is required to turn the tide on this issue.

We have found a person we are interested in, we have gotten up the courage to express our interest and now we are exploring the relationship by getting to know each other.

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