February has been designated as teen dating violence awareness month (TDVAM) by Congress and presents a valuable opportunity to spread the word and educate individuals on one of the most dangerous situations adolescents face. While teen dating violence doesn’t get as much press and awareness as issues like substance abuse or depression, it is becoming increasingly prevalent among young people. Like any kind of abuse, it shames and isolates its victims, leaving many teens afraid or embarrassed to speak out or take the steps they need to fix their situation.
There are a number of things that teens, parents and educators can do to raise awareness of teen dating violence, during February and throughout the year.
- Parents - Discuss the aspects of a healthy relationship with your teen as well as modeling it in your own relationship as much as possible. Make it clear that love is about respect, friendship and compromise rather than control, jealousy or abuse of any kind. Discuss the different types of abuse; physical, emotional and sexual, and explain what is out of boundaries in a healthy relationship. Make effort to foster a relationship of trust with your teen, so that you can be a safe place for him/her to come to in times of trouble.
- Teens - Participate in Respect Week. During February, the National Youth Advisory Board has set aside a week for fundraising and awareness-raising activities. You can participate in a planned event or even create one of your own using the tips and toolkit information provided on their website. By contributing your time and effort, or even just wearing orange in support of violence awareness, you can help educate others on the dangers posed by teen dating violence.
Educators – Spread awareness among your students each February by registering to take part in the National Respect Announcement, which states:
“This Valentine’s Day, we’d like to remind you that everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship. If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, healthy or unhealthy, visit loveisrespect.org or text "loveis" to 22522.
Remember, love has many definitions, but abuse isn't one of them.”
By reading this statement across the school’s intercom, sharing it with your classes or posting it around campus, you will be joining the voice that ensures that teens know where to go and who to approach if they are involved in a violent or unhealthy relationship.
It requires a collaborative effort by teens, parents and educators in order to put a stop to teen dating violence. Through awareness and education, individuals can take on a direct role in breaking the cycle of violence while building the tools and resources that are needed for the work to continue and grow. Taking action during teen dating violence awareness month means being part of the solution.