ABILENE, Texas - The average age children begin dating in the Big Country is 10-years-old, according to statistics the Noah Project has collected. Dating violence can begin even at that young age.
According to the project, 29-percent of teens who have experienced dating violence had their first encounter from age 12 to 13 and 40 percent of teens who have experienced dating violence had their first encounter from age 14 to 15 year olds. In Texas, 60 percent of teen girls have reported experiencing or committing dating violence and 40 percent of teen boys reported the same. One in four girls reports being pressured into going farther sexually than they were comfortable with.
Noah Project Executive Director Leigh Ann Fry said she thinks recent technology, such as cell phones and social media, is one reason children are dating so young.
"Even our little kids have cell phones now and they're getting texts from, you know, their "boyfriend or girlfriend" about 50 to 60 times a day--you know ‘where are you? Who are you talking to? What are you wearing?' Those types of questions and being followed around or any type of controlling behavior are red flag behaviors," Fry said.
That's why the project's prevention programs start as early as pre-kindergarten.
"They're not going to understand a lot about dating, so our curriculum is very age appropriate at the pre-K age," Fry said. "We are going to talk about more tender things like anger and bullying and ‘what do you do when you see a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or that makes your stomach feel funny? Those types of things and we have age appropriate books and then the curriculum as you move up in the age levels becomes a little more intense, a little more candid for the other kids."
Abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, social or economic. It can also affect people of any age or gender.
The Noah Project's prevention programs are available at several schools, universities and daycares across the Big Country. If you'd like your child to participate, speak with a representative from your school district. All services are free of charge, for more information, click here.