February brings awareness to teen dating violence

February is the month of Valentines, but it’s also National Teen Dating Violence Awareness month.

In recognition, the Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force, Wilton Youth Council, WHS PTSA, Teen PeaceWorks, and the Wilton Library Association will mark the occasion with a free program Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Wilton Library, “Don’t Be Prey, Be Empowered.” It includes the screening of a condensed version of the documentary The Hunting Ground.

Wilton High School will also conduct awareness events that day, including a screening of the date-rape awareness film, ”The Yellow Dress.”

“What causes teen dating violence? If I knew the answer to that, we could focus on preventing it,” said Lt. Robert Cipolla, the Wilton Police Department’s liaison on family and dating violence.

Wilton has had incidences of teen dating violence, Cipolla said, although exact statistics were not available because it is included in the overall data of dating violence, which includes adult cases.

“Dating violence can take several forms,” Cipolla said. “Whether it’s physical, or the threat of violence, or stalking behavior. It could also include sexual assault.”

The Hunting Ground explores the incidence of sexual assault at U.S. college campuses. A discussion, which follows, will be led by four panelists representing the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, the Center of Sexual Assault, the Women’s Center in Danbury and the police department.

“The main point of the program is to raise awareness for the teenage population of what healthy relationships are, and what are the resources available should someone find themselves in that situation,” said Cipolla, who will represent the police department. He will speak to the importance and procedures of reporting.  

Representatives from the Domestic Violence Crisis Center and The Center of Sexual Assault will speak of the services the agencies offer and their role in victim advocacy. The Women’s Center representative will speak of Title IX, campus resources and campus safety.

The event is free and those planning to attend are asked to register in advance by going to www.wiltonlibrary.org/events.