The designation of February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month helps us to focus on the necessary and possible ways to identify and change relationships that are abusive, controlling and difficult to discuss, especially among our youth.
Each year about 1 in 4 teens report being the victim of verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual violence. This year’s congressional briefing on the topic of teen dating violence is an example of important collaborative efforts among policy makers, government officials, educators, advocates and non-profit organizations to stop dating violence by reaching youth early and breaking the cycle of abuse.
The impact of teen dating violence is real and can greatly disrupt teens’ healthy development. Victims of dating abuse are more likely to engage in binge drinking; and rates of drug and alcohol abuse are more than twice as high in girls who report dating abuse than in those who do not. Adolescents often carry the unhealthy patterns of abuse into future relationships.
President Obama in his Presidential Proclamation on National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month encourages efforts to take on the social realities of adolescent life today when addressing teen dating violence. The President said:
“Technology such as cell phones, e-mail, and social networking websites play a major role in many teenagers’ lives, but these tools are sometimes tragically used for control, stalking, and victimization. Emotional abuse using digital technology, including frequent text messages , threatening e-mails, and the circulations of embarrassing messages or photographs without consent, can be devastating to young teens.”
Unfortunately, teen dating violence is often unnoticed by parents, and even unrecognized as abnormal by those teens experiencing it. We all must advocate for the young people in our lives, provide a safe space to report instances of teen dating violence, and set examples of healthy and appropriate displays of love, respect and affection.
Check out the video accompanying this article to learn about the warning signs regarding digital dating abuse.
The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) supports efforts to reach teens and adults about creating healthy relationships and where to find assistance when needed. These resources and additional information can be found on OVW’s website.
If you or someone you know needs help contact the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at: 1-866-331-9474 .
(Source: DOJ / Office on Violence Against Women)