Dylan Manderlink

Take Action + Receive Support During Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

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As a teacher, I'm also a mandated reporter, which means any violence-related information shared with me about a student and his or her boyfriend/girlfriend, his or her parents, or friends falls under the realm of my responsibility to follow through with the necessary and legal precautions.  With that said, teen dating violence is a serious issue, and should be thoughtfully, respectfully, and urgently addressed and handled - especially if you're a close friend, parent, teacher, or confidante.

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Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is ‘a national effort to raise awareness about dating violence, promote programs that support young people, and encourage communities to prevent this form of abuse with the goal of decreasing the prevalence of dating violence among young people.’  As with all awareness months, your advocacy, action, and passion towards ameliorating and eliminating this issue will be heightened through activities that take place.  However, your contribution and support should extend beyond the month of February, so if you’re not already involved or aware of the gravity of teen dating violence, hopefully after reading this post you'll feel motivated to learn more, contribute, and spread awareness.

So just how large is this issue?  It certainly extends far beyond the high school where I teach.  According to the Family and Youth Services Bureau, ‘each year, nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner.  Teen dating violence impacts 1 in 3 adolescents in the United States through physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse.’  Not only is that statistic startling, but it’s also important to remember that it’s not just a number; they are teenagers who are trying to pass their English class, teenagers who are going to prom, and teenagers who have to cope with the abuse and mistreatment they have experienced at such a young age.

National awareness and public education surrounding this issue is crucial.  There is so much you can do to positively contribute to this nationwide effort:  engage in a sensitive but honest dialogue with the teenagers in your life, share the research and findings of how pressing and prevalent this issue is, ask your local public school to host a school assembly or discuss teen dating violence in their health class curriculums, or write a letter to the editor or article in your local newspaper about this awareness month.  Let this month be your start to finding an end to this injustice and form of violence.

When I think about teen dating violence, I think of the 200 students I work with every day.  I think of my sister and brother.  I think of the emotionally abusive and manipulative relationship I was in during my freshman year of college.  It’s important for us to remember that dating violence could happen to anyone.  There is not a typical ‘look’ of an abuser or a survivor.  We must not perpetuate harmful stereotypes when trying to address this problem.  If a victim of teen dating violence discloses what he or she has experienced, the responder should be cautious in the language used.  Victim-blaming is incredibly damaging and when a survivor is confiding in you, it is imperative that you believe, support, and care for them.

Many times, teen dating violence survivors are lead to believe that the violence happens because it’s his or her fault.  Typically, a partner will manipulate and convince them that they abused, controlled, or mistreated them because of something they ostensibly did.  But we know, as advocates, that that is not true.  It’s important for the survivor, especially because of how young and impressionable they are, to know that none of the violence and abuse is their fault.

Victim-blaming is incredibly damaging - it's imperative you believe, support, and care for the victim.

If you are a teacher or community education professional, there are many toolkits, curriculum guides, and educational resources available.  If you are interested in using these resources to increase awareness and education in your local community visit the Family and Youth Services Bureau website.

I highly suggest that if you or someone you know is or has been in an abusive relationship, call a free and confidential hotline.  The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 866-331-9474.  When comfortable and consensual, seeking therapy or additional mental health services is also highly recommended, and the helpline can assist in finding and practicing beneficial coping mechanisms.

During this month, encourage those you know and your local community to be more informed about the impact and issue of teen dating violence.  To learn more about dating and domestic violence, the National Online Resource Center on Violence Against Women has informative resources.

Raising awareness and creating safe spaces for important dialogues surrounding teen dating violence can be triggering for some, especially if they are survivors themselves.  Make sure to also pair your awareness and action with sensitive and educational information about healthy relationships, consent, and respect in intimate partnerships.  Shedding light on positive and healthy relationships is important for survivors and all teens to see, learn, and identify.  In addition to that, educating teens on the warning signs of a potentially abusive relationship is critical.  Approaching this matter with the utmost sensitivity, compassion, and empathy is imperative, so reaching out to a community educator, nonprofit professional, activist, or social worker would be advised.

To learn more and find more ways to get involved, visit the following resources:

CDC's Division of Violence Protection

Love is Respct: Teen DV Month Resources

Health Finder: Teen Dating Violence  Awareness Month Guide

 

 

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