Youth and counsellors packed Surrey Arts Centre Wednesday for Looking Through the Lens: Teen Dating Now, a seminar on domestic and teen dating abuse.
The conference, organized by Surrey Coalition Against Domestic Abuse (SCADA), discussed such issues as sexting and cyber bullying, and highlighted ways to empower teenagers and prevent dangerous situations.
Sarbjit Batalia, the mother of Maple Batalia, whose ex-boyfriend is one of two men charged with her murder, attended the event and passed on her message through Coun. Barinder Rasode.
"She wants to talk about how we make sure that young people in these situations either learn how to get support for their anger, for their jealousy," said Rasode.
Coun. Linda Hepner and Surrey-Green Timbres MLA Sue Hammell were also present, and Mayor Dianne Watts also gave opening remarks regarding abuse in teen relationships.
"I'm a mother of two teenage daughters and I have seen first-hand some of these issues that will certainly be the focus of today's conversation," Watts said.
Anita Roberts, an award-winning author, was the keynote speaker. She shared stories of how she was beaten by her father and how she was raped at 17 by a 28-year-old she was dating.
She spoke of a time when a man attempted to rape her, but she fought back and escaped. Since then, she's taken up martial arts and has taught self-defense classes to women for decades.
"Many, many young women put up with bad boyfriends, and there's one of the skills we're not sending our daughters out into the world armed with," she said.
"Most men don't hurt women and children. We need to tell our girls you're fishing from a small pool."
Roberts said one in four girls will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, 85 per cent of assaults against women are by someone they know and assault by a partner is the leading cause of injury to women in Canada. She also spoke of how early the abuse can start.
"Raise your hand if you've never been called a bitch," said Roberts. No one raised their hand. "When I ask that question in a Grade 6 class, no hands go up."
Roberts hopes her message will teach youth to recognize abuse and help prevent these situations from happening to anyone else. "We have to stop telling our daughters how beautiful they look and we have to start telling our daughters how beautiful they are," she said.
Anyone who is in an abusive relationship can anonymously report the abuse to Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-222-8477.