February has been designated as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). TDVAM is a national effort to raise awareness and protect teens from violence. SCCADVASA, its member organizations, and a growing number of schools statewide are committed to increasing awareness of teen dating violence by educating the public and students about healthy relationships. Adolescents and adults are often unaware how regularly dating violence occurs. One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, sexual or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. In a 2015 study done by the University of New Hampshire, more than nine in 10 students said that they had at least one opportunity within the last year to intervene in situations of dating or sexual violence. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. As teens develop emotionally, they are heavily influenced by their relationship experiences. Teens often think some behaviors, like teasing and name calling, are a “normal” part of a relationship. That is why it is never too early for prevention.
Prevention involves developing strategies that stop violence before it occurs. Prevention done in middle and high schools is very important. Those teens that are victims in high school are at higher risk for victimization during college. We encourage parents to talk with their teens about healthy relationships. Giving teens communication skills to talk with their partner, managing uncomfortable emotions like anger and jealousy, and treating others with respect are all ways in which educators and parents can talk with teens about keeping relationships healthy and non-violent. SCCADVASA member organizations are doing their part to reach students by providing prevention and intervention training to schools and communities.
Across the state SCCADVASA member organizations are working with communities and schools to reach more youth. Our member organization’s Community Educators are taking various approaches to reach teens at this crucial time in their lives. This includes providing an in-school educators’ prevention curriculum (Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands), using community members as mentors (Julie Valentine Center) and partnering with anti-violence programs (My Sister’s House). We are continually partnering and collaborating with schools to make sure that students understand the importance of healthy relationships, what these healthy relationships look like and that resources are available when those relationships start to become unhealthy.
You can find your local domestic or sexual violence organization that provides prevention education, SCCADVASA Member Organizations. Is there a program that focuses on teens you think could benefit from dating abuse prevention education? Are you willing to host or co-host an event for them? Is there a local domestic violence organization that works specifically with teens? Can you attend an event or volunteer a few hours? Open a dialogue with other adults, friends or parents in your community so more adults are aware of the realities of the issue, and have the tools and supports they need to engage the young people in their life.
Here are some national teen dating violence efforts that can provide additional resources and information: