MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) – March 21 kicks off RespectFEST, a week of events raising awareness of teen dating violence.
Virtual events will be held throughout the week, focusing on topics such as consent and healthy relationships, leading up to an in-person event on Sunday.
About 1 in 3 teenagers will experience dating violence during their teenage years. Hanna Reid was only 15 when she was in an abusive relationship. She says it wasn’t until a year after she and her partner separated and she began an internship at the Family Justice Center that she realized she was being abused.
“You never see it like, oh, that can happen to me,” Reid said. “And even if you’re in, at least for me, I haven’t. I didn’t see it that way, I saw it as a passionate love affair. I didn’t see it as abuse.”
The festival also includes a public exposure contest where students can submit videos and win a prize.
The 8th Annual RespectFEST is part of an ongoing program called Choose Respect, which represents the Montgomery County Attorney’s Strategy for Long-Term Domestic Violence Reduction.
“They minister to their friends, they minister to other people, and the message is not just coming from us but from the people around them,” said Montgomery County Attorney John McCarthy.
Some of the signs of teen dating violence are visible injuries or bruises, changes in behavior, weight loss, changes in grades, and making excuses for their partner.
“The more we talk about it, the more people will be willing to come forward and share their experiences and not feel ashamed or embarrassed or feel like there’s something wrong with them,” said Debbie Feinstein, Chair of the Coordinating Council for domestic violence.
Throughout the week you can watch the top 5 videos and vote for the fan favorite.
The winner will be announced on Sunday at the Wheaton Community Recreation Center. For further information, click here.