PEKIN (WEEK) -- Although February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, it's a topic the Center for Prevention of Abuse takes to classrooms year-round, reaching 36,000 students in Central Illinois last year. But is it something teens are really facing at such a young age?
"I know a few people who have, and they came out of them not knowing it was abusive, that was kind of the norm for them for a very long time," shares Pekin High School freshman Andrew Rosenthal.
"I do see a lot of it , I have a friend where he was trying to do sexual stuff with her but she didn't want him to and she ended up breaking off the relationship," explains classmate Breanna Rice.
"Yeah, I helped one of my good friends after she got assaulted," adds Caleb Schaefer.
Sadly, these aren't isolated admissions.
According to youth.Gov, 1 in 10 teens will experience dating violence.
Also, 12- 19 year olds have the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.
And the long term effects of these can include suicide attempts, eating disorders and drug use.
"It's not healthy to stay in an abusive relationship. It's very damaging to the mind, physical or mental," reiterates student Aiden Hart-Lusher.
With that in mind, students at Pekin High School who sat in on the interactive lesson said they were listening and learning.
"I thought there was just one type of abuse because everyone just thinks physical , and I learned there's also verbal and emotional," admits 9th grader Kayla Walker.
"It also surprised me it could be the girls who are the abusers," reveals James Eagen.
Above all, the Center for Prevention of Abuse hopes these students can walk away from these educational visits recognizing red flags of abuse in their own relationships and those of others.
"I thing I'm going to just try to be there for more people and make sure no one is going through that, because it's hurtful, and it's never their fault," declares freshman Olivia Muro.
As for parents, there are lessons to be learned when it comes to teens and dating violence.
"I think parents can make themselves available to their children and just be present so when their child wants to share with them, they're able to hear it," explains Director of Education Laura Kowalske.
She adds that if you need to watch for behavior that's out of the ordinary. Talk to them if you suspect something is wrong. Believe them if they tell you something is. Then, help them get access to any resources they might need including talking to a school counselor or reaching out to professionals at the Center for Prevention of Abuse.
There is a toolkit available for parents looking for more information: here.