teen dating violence awareness

Every year, millions of young people are affected by dating violence, with devastating consequences that can last a lifetime.

This problem is pervasive, and it affects every corner of our society.

What is Dating Violence? Who Is Most Affected

Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in romantic or intimate relationships used by one person to control or dominate their partner. This behavior takes many different forms and can include physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, and financial abuse.

According to The Texas Dating Violence Prevention Team, 75% of 16 to 24-year-olds have either personally experienced dating violence or know someone who has, and 50% of those surveyed have experienced dating violence.

Despite these staggering figures, Hope Alliance Texas reports that 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know it’s an issue.

Girls and young women experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average. These early experiences with violence can have serious ramifications by putting the survivors at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, and further domestic violence.

How can we respond to such a ubiquitous yet simultaneously overlooked issue?

Collaboration Helps Address Multiple Barriers

As the Chief Executive Officer of Texas Advocacy Project, a statewide organization serving survivors of domestic and dating violence, child abuse, human trafficking, and stalking, and as an advocate with 20 years of experience in the anti-violence movement, I know that we must do more to prevent the alarming rates of teen dating violence in our communities.

Our organization works to stop the problem before it starts. Many young people are not aware of the warning signs of abuse. As advocates working in the field, it is our responsibility to educate them on the importance of recognizing these red flags, and how to seek help if they or someone they know is in a dangerous relationship.

This is where our prevention team and external partners come in. Through collaboration, education, and training, we come together to remind ourselves of the traditional and new generational warning signs of dating violence. The shared vision is to have multi-prong innovative solutions that keep young people safe and change our broader social norms. Forums like the Healthy Futures of Texas 12th Annual Symposium creates a collaboration hub for health experts, educators, and advocates to address barriers young people face at various life stages. During training sessions such as ‘In Their Shoes: Teen Dating Violence Simulation’ and ‘Prevention through Preparation: Laying the Foundation for Healthy Teen Relationships,’ we will create moving and teachable experiences.

The other side of prevention is promoting healthy relationships and teaching young people how to communicate effectively and resolve conflicts without resorting to violence and teaching communities to hold abusers accountable for their actions.

Where Do Legal Resources Come In?

When we think about teen dating violence or any other social issue for that matter, we typically don’t immediately think of legal solutions. However, one of the most important things we can do is to empower survivors with the knowledge of their legal rights. The hope-line (1-800-374-HOPE) gives those in need access, to attorneys and/or social workers who explain resources and arm survivors with their rights, as this is the first step towards safety.

By providing legal resources and support to survivors, we, as advocates, educators, and parents, can empower teen survivors to break the cycle of violence and take control of their lives. This can feel especially precious for teens who may see their abuser in person every single day at school.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is an important opportunity to raise awareness about this devastating issue and to take action to prevent it. By promoting healthy relationships, educating young people about the warning signs of abuse, holding abusers accountable for their actions, providing support to victims, and educating them on their legal rights, we can create a safer and more just world for all young people. Let us all work together to end teen dating violence once and for all.

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