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Carissa Adams wins healthy dating essay contest

The Lakes Crisis and Resource Center has named Cassia Adams the local winner of a Teen Essay Contest sponsored by the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women and Verizon Wireless to increase awareness of the prevalence of teen dating violence throughout Minnesota and to promote healthy dating relationships.

The Lakes Crisis & Resource Center invited teens from throughout Becker County to participate in this essay contest. The essay contest challenged teenagers to write up to 500 words about "How do You Know When You're in a Healthy Dating Relationship?"

Sixteen MCBW member programs throughout Minnesota were to choose a local essay contest winner and those winning essays were then entered into a statewide contest.

In addition to being entered into the statewide contest, the winner received a $50 gift card and the Lakes Crisis Center will receive a $250 grant towards teen dating violence awareness initiatives for Becker County.

"We would like to extend a special thank you to Verizon Wireless for making this project possible. The $250 grant will be used for continued community education regarding the issue of dating violence," said Leona Ulrich, the Crime Victims Services coordinator. "More importantly, this essay contest has given hundreds of teens an opportunity to speak out against dating violence and create more awareness in our community."

Teen dating violence is an extremely prevalent issue for thousands of teens throughout Minnesota and drastically affects our local communities and families. The statistics are staggering.

According to the Center for Disease Control and their Choose Respect Campaign:

- 1 in 11 teens report being a victim of physical dating abuse each year.

- 1 in 4 teens report verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse each year.

- 1 in 5 high school girls have been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner

- About 72 percent of students eighth and ninth grades report "dating." By the time they are in high school, 54 percent of students report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked or otherwise physically hurt by his or her partner.

Equally as startling is that fact that adolescents who report experiencing dating violence are more likely to report binge drinking, suicide attempts, physical fighting and current sexual activity.

The responsibility of bringing an end to teen dating violence and helping to prevent it before it starts spans across all systems and communities -- from the media, public health agencies, schools, teachers, neighbors, parents, to the teens themselves.

The MCBW/Verizon Wireless Statewide Teen Essay Contest was designed to give hundreds of teens an opportunity to express their concerns regarding the dating violence in their schools and communities and share with their peers and community their thoughts on what constitutes a healthy dating relationship.

Verizon Wireless contributed $10,000 toward the statewide Teen Essay Contest, providing programs throughout Minnesota with additional resources to work with youth regarding teen dating violence as well as providing awards to the teens who submitted essays.