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“Our uniqueness, our individuality, and our life experience molds us into fascinating beings. I hope we can embrace that. I pray we may all challenge ourselves to delve into the deepest resources of our hearts to cultivate an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and compassion. We are all in this life together.” -Linda Thompson

This past week, we underwent Teen Dating Violence (TDV) training in preparation for the STEM camp–Eureka!–hosted by the non-profit organization, Girls, Inc. In this training, we learned several statistics. A few are: 1.5 million high school students report being physically abused by their dating partner every year in the United States; 1 in 4 women in the United States have been the victim of violence by an intimate partner; 1 in 7 men in the United States have experienced domestic violence.

Hearing these facts were inconceivable. Although having learned the concept of TDV in high school, I never once imagined the statistics being as high as they currently are. Mind you, the keyword in this data is “report.” Not everyone who experiences TDV report it due to the conspicuous stigma and judgment — Why are you in the relationship in the first place? Why don’t you leave him/her? As the saying goes, one needs to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before judging, let alone understanding the person or his/her experiences.

I am very grateful for the Teen Dating Violence training because it was certainly a reality check. Some of the girls we will be working with this summer may have experienced or are currently experiencing TDV. Having learned the warning signs is a step in the right direction, reducing the stats–always tired, lack of interest in subject matter, always on her phone, putting her partner first, etc. This training, nonetheless allowed me to put this upcoming summer camp into perspective. It will be difficult. It will pull me out of my comfort zone, but most importantly, it will teach me just how unique people are and how our decisions do not define us, but our experiences have and will continue to shape us into who we are.