February Director’s Message - Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month

February 4, 2013

OVW joins the nation in recognizing February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM).  In his Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month Proclamation President Obama called on all Americans “to stand against dating violence when we see it.”  At a time when an estimated 1 in 10 teens will experience dating violence we all must take this opportunity to amplify our efforts and shine a spotlight on this important issue. 

 Teen dating violence is violence committed by a person who is or has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim.  It can include physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal violence or abuse, financial control and stalking.  Teen dating violence has negative effects on the mental and physical health of youth, as well as on their school performance.  It can also be a predictor of intimate partner violence and sexual violence perpetration or victimization in later life.  1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who have experienced domestic violence first experienced this kind of violence when they were between 11 and 17 years old.  And, we know that if we intervene early, we can often prevent perpetration and victimization in the future. 

 I would like to share some concrete ways that youth and adults can participate in raising awareness about teen dating violence in your community.  By engaging youth, we can prevent the destructive cycle of abuse and promote safe, healthy relationships among young people.  I am excited to announce the release of innovative new tools created by OVW technical assistance providers.  These remarkable resources can be used throughout the month of February – and beyond. 

  •  Safety Planning Guide – a project of Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline.  The interactive planning guide allows youth to create a personalized safety plan for work, school, home and while out with a partner.  It also provides tips, local resources, and a pocket-sized personalized safety checklist.   
  •  teenDVmonth Toolkit – a brand new toolkit released by Break the Cycle just in time for TDVAM.  The toolkit provides adult allies with resources to engage communities, especially youth, in a discussion about healthy relationships. 
  • What's Real Tool Kit – The Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence's Center for Healthy Teen Relationships’ new toolkit has an array of resources for use year-round as well as during TDVAM.  It includes a youth-led positive social marketing campaign; posters, stickers, bookmarks, and other materials to engage both youth and adult influencers; and reproducible materials you can use to engage youth online. 
  •  That’s Not Cool Ambassador Program – the Ambassador Program is a unique opportunity for teens to raise awareness with friends, family, and the community at large.  By completing monthly challenges, That’s Not Cool Ambassadors contribute their unique voices to this national initiative while helping to raise awareness about digital dating abuse in their schools and local communities.  All teens and tweens across the country are invited to join this Futures Without Violence initiative. 

 There are countless programs, organizations and dedicated individuals who are tireless in their efforts to prevent abuse in dating relationships, and I applaud all of your efforts. 

 OVW’s youth-serving grantees tell us that everyone can make a difference by reaching out to young people in simple ways.  As we interact with teens in our work or personal lives each of us can act on President Obama’s call to stand against teen dating violence by:

  •  Discussing the warning signs of dating abuse (all kinds, not just physical abuse). 
  •  Creating a positive connection to the issue – talk about the characteristics of healthy teen relationships, not just abusive ones – and use statistics sparingly. 
  •  Talking about how the media portrays healthy and unhealthy relationships.  For example, many popular movies, TV shows, commercials, books, and magazines portray stalking as romantic or harmless when it is actually very dangerous. 
  •  Getting involved even if you don’t have a lot of resources – an information table, classroom discussion, or school announcement can get the conversation started. 

 Anyone can participate in TDVAM!  Visit TeenDVmonth.org – an online hub for national activities and promotion of TDVAM.  The website offers resources for youth, adults and communities that want to plan awareness-raising activities in February. 

 Consider one of the following activities:

  • Request a TDVAM proclamation from your state or local government, such as this example from Minnesota.
  • Register your local school for the National School Announcement.
  • Ask local school teachers to include a discussion about healthy relationships in their February lesson plans.
  • Write an op-ed in your local newspaper.
  • Support youth-led events and projects.

The staff at OVW and I are excited to dive into the month of February and make the increased focus on teen dating violence the new norm as we welcome 2013 – A year that we hope will mark progress and positive change in the field of domestic, sexual  and teen dating violence prevention.