OGDEN -- The Utah Department of Health is working to get teenagers involved in raising awareness of dating violence.
"The only way we can educate is through teens doing peer leadership and teen education," said Katie McMinn, spokeswoman for the Violence and Injury Prevention Program. "A lot of times people think it doesn't happen here in Utah. But to get teenagers involved, it kind of sets the tone for the reality of teen dating abuse."
The UDOH is inviting students to create artwork that will raise awareness of the seriousness of dating violence among their peers. The theme of this year's contest is, "Dating Abuse Prevention: What's Love Got to Do With It?" Students can submit artwork in three categories: visual arts, YouTube video or written work. Each winner will be recognized at an awards ceremony and will receive a tuition-paid visual arts, film production or writing class from one of three local businesses: Spy Hop Productions, Visual Arts Institute and Higher Ground Learning Center.
The contest is part of a larger effort to encourage students, parents and schools to participate in Utah's Teen Dating Violence Prevention Week held Feb. 6-12.
McMinn said the prevention week is important to help bring awareness to a problem that affects many Utah teenagers.
"It can be really detrimental if they don't know how to handle the relationship, if they don't know what to do if their partner is being abusive," she said.
In 2009, nearly 11 percent of Utah teenagers in the ninth to 12th grade reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Along with creating awareness of teen dating violence, McMinn said they also hope to let teens know there are resources available if they are in an abusive situation.
"We also want to educate them about the resources that are available in the state, that there is somewhere they can go and there is assistance they can find," she said.
The contest is open to all Utah students in grades 7-12, and the deadline for entries is Jan. 9. Entries must be posted on the Utah Teen Dating Scene Facebook page. For more information about the contest, visit http://health.utah.gov/vipp/datingviolence/mediacontest.html.