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Florida Department of Health in Marion County to host free workshop dinner about relationship violence

By Florida Department of Health in Marion County

February 04, 2022


Ocala, Fla.—Love lingers in the air during February. But unlike the candy and flowers many people exchange on Feb. 14, love is not always so sweet.

Too often, especially for young people, relationships can be marred by some noxious factors. Studies show that about one of three teenagers experience some form of dating violence. 

To help adults spot the signs and symptoms of a youth’s unhealthy romantic relationship, the Florida Department of Health in Marion County is sponsoring a free Teen Dating Violence workshop and dinner. The event is scheduled from 5:30–8 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Webber Center at the College of Central Florida, 3001 S.W. College Rd. in Ocala. 

Dinner will be served, and giveaways will be provided. 

The workshop is open to adults and youth age 12 or older. The presentations will seek to inform participants about the signs, risks, and consequences of dating violence, as well as how to set boundaries and priorities, and where to find help, if needed. To register for the workshop or learn more about it, call the Department of Health at 352-644-2687. 

The keynote speaker will be Ashley Bendiksen, a noted violence-prevention educator, author, and activist on social issues facing teenagers and young adults. 

Bendiksen also is a survivor of an abusive dating relationship—one that forced her to drop out of college and left her homeless. Seven years after she fled college and her abuser, Bendiksen graduated as valedictorian of the class of 2013 at Salve Regina University in Rhode Island. 

“Teens and young adults face unhealthy abusive dating relationships at higher rates than any other demographic,” Bendiksen said. “It’s an extremely vulnerable time, and unhealthy relationships are extremely common.”

“My story shows students that no matter what challenge they’re facing, they can overcome adversity and achieve success,” she added.

The American Psychological Association reports that roughly one in three American teens between 14 and 20 have been victims of dating violence, while nearly one in three admit they’ve been the perpetrator of such acts.

Teen dating violence can involve physical and sexual abuse, as well as stalking and psychological aggression, which includes actions such as yelling, insults, name-calling and being controlling.

The workshop is sponsored by the Department of Health’s BRAZEN team, whose mission is to educate young people on risk avoidance.