February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM), and the theme for this year is “Talk About It.” It is a call to action for young people and those who support them to have meaningful conversations about healthy relationships and to talk about what to do in unhealthy and abusive relationships.
Teen dating violence includes physical, emotional, sexual, or digital abuse in a current dating relationship or by a former dating partner. Young people experience violence at alarming rates. According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey:
- Over 71% of women and over 55% of men first experienced intimate partner violence (sexual or physical violence, and/or stalking) under the age of 25.
- One in four women first experienced intimate partner violence prior to the age of 18.
- Over 80% of women and over 70% of male rape victims experienced their first completed or attempted rape under the age of 25.
- Sexual violence is usually committed by someone the survivor knows. Over 28% of girls who experienced sexual violence under the age of 18 were raped by a current or former intimate partner.
- Youth who experience sexual violence as children or teens are more likely to experience sexual violence in adulthood. Thirty-five percent of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults, compared to 10% of women raped as an adult who were not raped as minors.
Experiencing violence in youth can have long-lasting impacts, making it all the more critical to prevent violence before it occurs. By promoting social norms that protect against violence (such as bystander programs and engaging men and boys) and supporting survivors, we can lessen the impact of sexual violence and prevent future victimization.
A healthy relationship requires open communication, safety, trust, and respect. Teaching children and young people about healthy relationships and consent should start early with age-appropriate messages through childhood and teen years. TDVAM is an opportunity to promote healthy relationships and consent, which are key to preventing sexual violence. Young people learn about relationships from those around them, so it is important to model healthy relationships and ask for consent while in person and online. Advocates can reinforce what consent looks like by educating parents, caregivers, and others on how to practice everyday consent and about healthy relationships. Advocates can also practice this by respecting a young person’s wishes or choices when working with them.
Resources for youth, advocates, and preventionists:
- 2022 TDVAM Action Guide: Toolkit for this year’s campaign, “Talk About It.”
- 2022 TDVAM Events Calendar: Calendar of TDVAM events in February.
- Vital Signs: Prevalence of Multiple Forms of Violence and Increased Health Risk Behaviors and Conditions Among Youths — United States, 2019: The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vital Signs report examines the types of violence experienced by teens aged 14 to 18 years old and highlights findings from the 2019 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). Almost half of teens (44.3%) experienced at least one type of violence and 1 in 7 (15.6%) of teens experienced at least two types of violence in the last year. The more violence young people experience, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors.
- Serving Teen Survivors: A Manual for Advocates: This manual for advocates provides a brief overview on the unique issues young sexual violence survivors face. It includes tip sheets on working with teens, information on confidentiality and mandated reporting laws, and much more!
- Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention: This free online course is for educators and others working with youth.
- Preventing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence: This collection of online resources helps with preventing and responding to teen dating violence.
- Love is Respect.org: A project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, they are a resource to empower youth to prevent and end dating abuse.
- That’s Not Cool.com: Helps young people draw a “digital line” about what is and what is not okay in their relationships
Resources for parents and caregivers:
Learning about healthy relationships and consent starts young. Parents can use the following resources to learn how to talk to their children and teens about healthy relationships and consent:
- Safe Secure Kids: This website provides free resources to help parents and caregivers prevent sexual abuse and harassment by communicating with children about respect and consent.
- Parent Discussion Guide on Youth Healthy Relationships: A discussion guide on how parents can talk to their teens about healthy relationships.
- I Ask How to Teach Consent Early: This handout contains tips for parents on how to teach and model consent
- Parent Tip Sheet: How Do I Help My Child?: This card provides tips for parents on how to help a child in an unhealthy relationship
- Healthy Communications with Kids: This resource shares information for parents about how to incorporate consent in everyday interactions with children.
- Parents Postcard: This postcard provides information for parents about teaching children and teens age-appropriate lessons about consent and healthy relationships.