SOCASTEE, S.C. (WBTW) — Teen-dating violence is more common than many people think.

Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 8.2% of high school students have experienced sexual violence. The number is even higher for high school girls, with up to 12.6% experiencing some form of violence within an intimate partner relationship. 

Sara Barber, executive director of the South Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said people often think of young relationships as “sweet.” However, she said there are signs that parents and friends should be on the lookout for if their teenager is starting a new relationship.

“In many ways, it replicates the behaviors that we see in adult relationships,” Barber said. “It’s jealousy, it’s checking phones, it’s demanding that somebody respond to a text message immediately, it’s isolating somebody, and then, of course, using physical and or sexual violence as a way to exert that control over somebody you’re in a relationship with.”

Barber said there is only one way to break the cycle. 

“My ultimate goal or hope is that at some point we have comprehensive health education,” Barber said. “We have to teach young people skills. We can’t just send them out there and assume that they’re going to know how to be in a relationship.”

It starts at the beginning. Professionals call for dating-violence education, and one Horry County School is answering. It is hard to find this important education in every health class. That is why the One Love Club at Socastee High School is taking the initiative.

“Everybody’s in a relationship. It doesn’t have to be romantic,” said Bobby Curran, a physical education teacher at Socastee High School. “Everybody has friends, family, and a lot of times people are in situations that they don’t know are healthy or not.”

Curran launched the One Love Club, which is the first of its kind in South Carolina. It offers a comprehensive look at building and maintaining healthy relationships.

Students attend workshops where they watch films based on relationships and have in-depth discussions about what was healthy or unhealthy. Fifty-three students attended the first club meeting. 

“Immediately you can see, tangibly, see the difference in the students from when they walked in to when they walk out,” Curran said. 

Dating violence is a hard topic to discuss, especially for high school students. But for sophomore Victoria Byrd, when she heard about the club from Curran, she knew right away that it was important.

“He introduced it, and I was like, ‘wow, this is very impactful, and I think other people will benefit from learning,’” Byrd said. “Relationships can look good at first, and then eventually problems can start to show and people might not realize that these are problems, and eventually it could lead to something bigger and something bad happening.”

Byrd now serves as the club’s president, and she along with Curran and other members wants to spread the message. They want everyone to learn these lessons before it is too late. 

“We want everyone in the school and in the county to learn about this and learn signs,” Byrd said. 

“It’s powerful content,” Curran said. “It’s not something that you can find on YouTube or anything like that. I just want everybody to get the message the best we can.”

Students who want to join the club or educators who want to learn how to become a One Love instructors can reach out to One Love Socastee on Instagram at @1lovesocastee.

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Taylor Maresca is the weekend morning anchor and morning reporter at News13. She joined the team in June 2022 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Taylor is from Houston. Follow Taylor on Twitter and read more of her work here.