February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). This year’s theme is “Huddle Up For Healthy 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 (Smith et al., 2018).
- One in four women first experienced intimate partner violence prior to the age of 18 (Smith et al., 2018).
- Over 80% of women and over 70% of male rape victims experienced their first completed or attempted rape under the age of 25 (Smith et al., 2018).
- 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 (CDC, n.d.).
- 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 (CDC, n.d.).
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 (Basile et al., 2016).
A healthy relationship requires open communication, safety, trust, and respect. Teaching kids 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. 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.
Advocates can use the resources below to help promote healthy relationships and consent with the young people they work with.
Resources for advocates and preventionists:
- Huddle Up! for Healthy Relationships: The 2019 Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month toolkit
- Serving Teen Survivors: A Manual for Advocates: This manual 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: A free online course for educators and others working with youth.
- Preventing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence: A collection of online resources for preventing and responding to teen dating violence.
- I Ask: Sexual Assault Awareness Month: April is SAAM, and this year’s campaign is all about consent!
- 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.
- Break the Cycle: Supports young people 12 -24 to build healthy relationships and create a culture without 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 & 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.
- I Ask How to Teach Consent Early: Tips for parents on how to teach about and model consent
- Parent Tip Sheet: How Do I Help My Child?: Tips for parents on how to help a child in an unhealthy relationship
- Healthy Communications with Kids: Information for parents about how to incorporate consent in everyday interactions with children.
- Parents Postcard: Information for parents about teaching children and teens age appropriate lessons about consent and healthy relationships.
Basile, K. C., DeGue, S., Jones, K., Freire, K., Dills, J., Smith, S. G., & Raiford, J. L. (2016). STOP SV: A technical package to prevent sexual violence. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/sv-prevention-technical-package.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Sexual violence in youth. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2012FindingsonSVinYouth-508.pdf
Smith, S., G., Zhang, X., Basile, K. C., Merrick, M. T., Wang, J., Kresnow, M., & Chen, J. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2015 data brief - updated release. Retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf