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By Kira Doar, AWARE® Program Director

June is Gun Violence Awareness Month. As we reflect on the devastating school shootings of the past year and discuss to how to prevent similar tragedies in the future, the orange awareness ribbon urges us to remember an overlooked issue that shares its awareness month color and serves as an indicator for future violence: teen dating violence.

In Parkland, Florida, in February, we heard descriptions of the shooter as someone who had abused his girlfriend and stalked another classmate.1 At a high school in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, in March, a student shot two of his classmates, including his recent ex-girlfriend who died in the days that followed. As with adult perpetrators of mass violence, these histories of violence against women and girls are not unusual. Between 2009 and 2016, 54% of mass shootings involved the shooting of an intimate partner or family member and domestic violence was a contributing factor in approximately 20% of mass public shootings.2

In the United States, one in three adolescents will experience verbal,emotional, sexual, or physical abuse from a dating partner and, each year, over 1.5 million high school students suffer physical abuse from an intimate partner.3 Despite the prevalence of this public health crisis, dating violence is often under reported and not treated as seriously as other forms of intimate partner violence. Not knowing what resources are available, not understanding the fundamentals of a healthy relationship, and thinking abuse is only physical all contribute to only one-third of young people who experience abuse ever telling anyone about it.4 Teens are also less likely to seek law enforcement assistance or pursue protective orders when they’re exposed to an unacceptably high risk of physical violence.5

It’s not just teens that have trouble recognizing dating violence and taking it seriously. Research found that almost two-thirds of school violence prevention policies don’t include plans for handling situations of intimate partner violence amongst adolescents and 62% of schools hadn’t provided training to administrators or faculty in the past two years on how to aid victims of teen dating violence.6 Even when teens do disclose to a trusted adult, they may mistakenly only understand abuse as physical violence and write off emotional or verbal abuse,such as gaslighting, manipulation, possessiveness, and jealousy, as teenage drama or angst.7

To help prevent future violence, it is critical for everyone to recognize the warning signs of teen dating violence and take them seriously. Here are a few warning signs to look for:

  • Apologizing and making excuses for their partner’s behavior;
  • Calling and/or texting their partner excessively;
  • Reacting in an extreme way when being asked to put their phone away or turn it off;
  • Canceling and changing plans often;
  • Fearing upsetting or angering their partner;
  • Giving up time with friends and family or on activities they used to be a part of;
  • Having drastic changes in weight, appearance, wardrobe, or grades;
  • Using drugs and alcohol; and
  • Having sudden change in mood or personality (i.e. become anxious or depressed,acting out, being secretive, losing confidence).

If you recognize these warning signs in a teen, it is important to talk to them about it, listen to them, believe them, take what they say seriously,and let them know that you are there for them and that they are not alone. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please call JCADA’s free and confidential helpline: 1-877-88-JCADA (52232).


  1. Tripolskii, Anton. Firearms and Teen Dating Violence. The National Domestic Violence and Firearms Resource Center. 1 March 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Dating Abuse Statistics.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Tripolskii.
  6. Herman, Lily. Teen Dating Violence is an Indicator of Gun Violence. Teen Vogue. 19 May 2018.
  7. Ibid.

Posted by AWARE Team | Topic: In The News

By Jess Glassman, AWARE® Intern

Though sexual assault can happen anywhere and to anyone of any age, it’s no surprise that it’s an especially pressing issue on college campuses in the U.S. Research further shows that college-age women (18-24) are at the highest risk of sexual violence.1 Approximately 1 in 6 women and 4% of men experience some form of sexual assault while in college, with the risk of assault being highest during their first few months on campus.2 The rate of victimization is even higher among transgender, genderqueer, and non-binary college students with 21% being sexually assaulted.3

As staggering as these statistics are, the reality on campus may be even worse. It is difficult to accurately collect estimates of occurrences of sexual assault because many victims are hesitant to report. For example, only 20% of female student victims reported their assault to law enforcement.4 Reporting sexual assault can be difficult for many victims for a variety of reasons, so if someone you know discloses to you, it’s important to respond appropriately and refer them to additional support.

According to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, here are some important ways to support someone who discloses to you that they’ve been sexually assaulted.

  • Believe them: It can be scary to reveal and talk about an experience of sexual assault. It is important that the victim feels heard and that their feelings of fear, isolation or sadness are validated.
  • Don't blame them: Victims may be quick to blame themselves for the sexual assault they have experienced. It is possible they may feel embarrassed or ashamed of what happened. It is important to acknowledge that what happened is not their fault.
  • Avoid judgement: Sexual assault can be a traumatic experience and everyone copes with this differently. If the victim chooses not to report the assault to the police, that is their choice. Everyone copes with trauma in a wide variety of ways. Be patient and give them the time they need to process and heal.
  • Remind them that they are not alone and that they are cared for: Experiencing sexual assault can be scary and feel isolating. Assure the victim of your support and care for them. If you want to offer physical support, like a hug, ask them beforehand to ensure they are comfortable.
  • Gather resources:
    • RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline for victims to call and seek support: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
    • Look for on campus services at your health or counseling center and offer to accompany the victim to visit those services.
    • When looking into resources, it is important to allow the victim to feel in control of the situation. If they are not comfortable reaching out to law enforcement or a professional, do not pressure or force them to. Allow them to make their own decisions in dealing with their experience.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, call the free and confidential National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

For more information about supporting a loved one who is a survivor of sexual violence, visit the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape’s A Guide for Friends and Family of Sexual Violence Survivors.


1-4 Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics. RAINN.

Campus Climate Survey Validation Study Final Technical Report. Bureau of Justice Statistics Research and Development Series.

Posted by AWARE Team | Topic: In The News  | Category: Sexual Assault, College, LGBTQ

By AWARE® Teen Advisory Board Members - Talia Bartley, Noam Elfassi & Sarah Kohn

April marks the 17th year of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)! The goal of this annual campaign is to raise awareness about the realities of sexual violence. Sexual violence is a broad term that includes rape, incest, child sexual abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, human trafficking, unwanted sexual contact, sexual harassment, exposure, and voyeurism.1 According to the CDC, in the U.S. one in three women and one in six men have experienced some form of contact sexual violence in their lifetime.2 Recent movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up have shed light on this issue and provided a platform for victims to share their experiences to spur action to change societal norms around rape culture and consent.

Your voice has power! Use the below #SAAM Social Media Toolkit created by the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board to raise awareness and show support for survivors.

Fast Facts*:

  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
  • More than 90% of sexual assault victims on college campuses do not report the assault.
  • 20% - 25% of college women and 15% of college men are victims of forced sex during their time in college.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives.
  • In 8 out of 10 cases of rape, the victim knows the person who sexually assaulted them.


  • Rape is the most under-reported crime; 63% of sexual assaults are not reported to police and only 12% of child sexual abuse is reported to the authorities.
  • 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.
  • 325,000 children are at risk of becoming victims of commercial sexual exploitation each year.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 women has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime.

*Get Statistics. National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).


  • #SAAM
  • #StartbyBelieving


  • #EndVictimBlaming
  • #SupportSurvivors


  • #UseYourVoice
  • #Teal4Survivors


Don’t forget to follow @AWARENow on Instagram to see our #30DaysofSAAM posts. You can join the challenge too! Join us to show your support for survivors and help raise awareness by participating in the #30DaysofSAAM Instagram challenge.

Need to know the basics? Here are a few definitions to help clarify words and phrases you might hear a lot during SAAM.

  • Sexual Assault: Any type of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Falling under the definition of sexual assault are sexual activities such as forced sexual intercourse, forcible sodomy, child molestation, incest, fondling, and attempted rape. (U.S. Dept. Of Justice)
  • Sexual Harassment: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. The conduct of the offender must be offensive and unwelcome by the victim. (Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission)
  • Rape Culture: An environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety. (Marshall University Women’s Center)
  • Consent: Permission for something to happen or an agreement to do something. In the context of sexual contact, consent is an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. Consent is freely given and is done so without pressure or coercion.


1 About Sexual Assault. National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC).

2 The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

Posted by AWARE Team | Topic: In The News  | Category: Sexual Assault

AWARE® is dedicated to empowering teens and young adults with the skills and information they need to build healthy relationships.
Email: • Office: 301.315.8040 • Confidential Helpline: 877.885.2232