By Kira Doar, AWARE® Program Director
Without a doubt, something feels different right now. Survivors of power-based personal violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, and intimate partner violence, have come forward to share their stories on a national stage. And not only are we hearing their stories, but the popular response has actually been to believe them! So now that the previously unawares portion of our population has come to understand how rampant these forms of violence are within our society, what’s next? Use Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (#TDVAM) as an opportunity to prioritize prevention!
As media coverage of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements ramped up, so did invitations for JCADA and other Victim Service Providers to participate in panel events, provide trainings to community members, and help review organizational policies. That’s awesome… but it’s not enough. We live in a world of reaction in which we frequently find ourselves organizing around crises. Much like an epidemic, we can’t just respond to treat the symptoms, we need to think about how to prevent it in the future. As #MeToo headlines have inspired adults to rethink their personal and professional interactions with others, we need to remember #TeensToo.
According to national data, one in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds other types of youth violence.1 Dating and dating violence are also beginning earlier, with research reporting them occurring as early as 7th grade.2 In addition to what young people experience and witness among their peers, five million children in the United States witness domestic violence each year, making them three times more likely to repeat the cycle in adulthood.3
As Rory Gory points out, “We do not go from healthy personal and professional relationships to serial sexual violations in just one step…. Sexual abuse begins by normalizing abusive behavior, at home and in the workplace, when young people begin to date.”4 Institutionalizing violence prevention education can support a culture change. Start the conversation about healthy relationships, equality, and respect with the young people in your life. Have it early and have it often!
1 Vagi, K. J., Olsen, E. O. M., Basile, K. C., & Vivolo-Kantor, A. M. (2015). Teen dating violence (physical and sexual) among US high school students: findings from the 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
2 Hokoda, A., del Campo, M. A. M., & Ulloa, E.C. (2012). Age and Gender Differences in Teen Relationship Violence.
3 10 Startling Statistics about Children of Domestic Violence. Childhood Domestic Violence Association.
4 Gory, Rory. How to Stop Teen Dating Violence. Teen Vogue.