All young people deserve to be safe and to learn how to build relationships free from violence. February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM), and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) is honoring TDVAM and emphasizing the seriousness and prevalence of this crime among adolescents.
Teen dating violence occurs more frequently than many parents realize. Behaviors such as physical and psychological abuse, sexual abuse, harassment, and stalking may go unnoticed or be minimized by teens, but are serious and can be deadly. OVW’s youth-focused grant program, the Consolidated Youth Program, provides victim services to teens and works to prevent violence before it ever starts.
On February 12th, OVW staff joined advocates across the country by wearing orange in support of Wear Orange Day. Wear Orange Day is an annual opportunity to support healthy relationships and raise awareness of dating violence among youth as part of TDVAM. This year’s theme was “Wear Orange 4 Love” and OVW shared photos via Twitter and helped raise awareness using #VYEM, #OVWTDV, and #teenDVmonth.
Stalking, although commonly part of abusive relationships, is an aspect of teen dating violence that can be easily overlooked. Ever-evolving technology and the prominent usage of this technology among teens makes them particularly vulnerable to cyberstalking, including unwanted contact via email and social media and being tracked by spyware, apps, and GPS technology. In addition, perpetrators frequently use the internet and social media accounts to meet and groom their victims online for sex trafficking, sexual assault, or other crimes of violence.
To address stalking among youth and adults, OVW technical assistance provider AEquitas: The Prosecutors’ Resource on Violence Against Women launched the Stalking Prevention, Awareness and Resource Center (SPARC) website. The resource center provides technical assistance, trainings, and resources to first-responders and other allied professionals on how to properly identify and effectively respond to the crime of stalking.
OVW also funds Break the Cycle’s Technology Education and Resources Project for Criminal Justice Professionals, which trains criminal justice professionals to assist youth victims experiencing abuse or stalking online or via technology.
Teen dating violence can have long lasting devastating effects, including future victimization and “detrimental physical and psychological health consequences in young adulthood,” according to a study by the National Institute of Justice. Intervention and prevention efforts are key to stopping the cycle of abuse, and young people have the opportunity to make lasting, generational change. On February 20th at 2 p.m. EST, the Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center will present an online Expert Q&A discussion on Serving Victims of Teen Dating Violence.
This February, join OVW, our federal colleagues, and grantees in breaking the cycle of violence and promoting healthy relationships among our youth.