Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (#teenDVmonth) is observed every year in the United States during the month of February. Dating violence abuse affects people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities, which is why it’s so critical we start these discussions early with our children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines teen dating violence as “the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.” Shockingly, one in three high school students experience either physical or sexual violence, or both, that is perpetrated by someone they are dating or going out with.
Break the Cycle, a national grant-funded project from the Office on Violence Against Women, notes that abuse starts early.
- More than half of women (69.5%) and men (53.6%) who have been physically or sexually abused, or stalked by a dating partner, first experienced abuse between the ages of 11-24.
- Of the 8.5% of middle school students who report having bullied a classmate, nearly 1 in 5 have been a victim of dating abuse.
- Nearly half of female and 1 in 4 male high school students who report experiencing sexual or physical abuse by a dating partner, have also been bullied electronically.
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) youth are more likely to experience physical and psychological dating abuse, sexual coercion, and cyber dating abuse than their heterosexual peers.
The impacts of teen dating violence are well documented. Youth victims are more likely to experience:
- Symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Engagement in unhealthy behaviors, such as tobacco and drug use, and alcohol
- Involvement in antisocial behaviors
- Suicidal ideation or attempts
Further, youth who are victims of teen dating violence during high school are at higher risk for victimization during college.
LoveIsRespect is one of the leading organizations working to “engage, educate and empower young people to prevent and end abusive relationships.” LoveIsRespect was the first 24-hour resource for teens experiencing dating violence and abuse, and is the only teen helpline serving all of the United States and its territories. Visit their website to learn about webinars, the national respect announcement, a national day of awareness, Respect Week (February 12-16), and more.
You can also find information on gender and relationship violence from Jana’s Campaign, a national education and violence prevention organization that delivers educational programs on the prevention of domestic and dating violence, sexual violence, and stalking. Their approach includes classroom curriculum development; school assemblies and presentations; community/school service projects; gender-specific presentations; coaching boys into men; bystander intervention training; faculty/staff training and inservice workshops; parent presentations; counselor workshops; and policy review and revisions.