Karen Bontrager, a survivor and self-described “thriver” following an abusive relationship, hopes to raise awareness of teen dating violence among 16- to 24-year-olds.
Her No Fear in Love Run happens Saturday in Arlington.
“My whole focus is to teach that a healthy relationship is one with trust, mutual respect and understanding,” Bontrager, a George Mason University graduate, told Patch. “If we put more of a focus on what a healthy one looks like, we would not have so many unhealthy relationships.”
Inspired by her own experiences, Bontrager has started teaching a mobile Healthy Dating 101 course to parents and children that explains the importance of recognizing what a good relationship looks like before teens suffer abuse.
Her goal is not to teach what to do in an abusive relationship, but how to stop one before it starts.
In a survey conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited in 2005, one in three teens knew of a friend who was physically hurt by their dating partner.
“There are skills that come from a healthy relationship, and I think in society we don’t teach those things,” Bontrager said. “I just don’t want 16- to 24-year-olds to be hurt. I want them to know that they deserve to be a champion in life.”
Bontrager founded, coordinated, planned and marketed the third annual No Fear in Love Run set for Saturday. The six-mile run coincides with National Teen Dating and Violence Awareness Month, which is February.
The run, which begins at Marymount University’s Ballston Center, will raise funds for the first No Fear in Love scholarship, which Bontrager hopes will be awarded this coming school year to a George Mason-bound student.
Registering for the run ahead of time is $25, or $30 at the event. All proceeds will be donated to the scholarship.
“We would love for (participants) to help make the scholarship possible,” Bontrager said.
The event begins at 6 a.m., with the run starting at 6:45. It will be followed by raffles and prizes.
Bontrager’s advice: If you’re in an abusive relationship, contact professional help such as Project Peace in Arlington.
To learn more about the Healthy Dating 101 course, email Bontrager at firstname.lastname@example.org.