February is the month most of us focus on roses and romance. Yet, studies show that the path to love and respect may not be clear for many young people. As we make our way through winter to spring, it’s vitally important to be aware that this month is also National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM).

Why raise awareness about teen dating and violence?

Now more than ever, promoting safe and healthy relationships is crucial for young people. At this point in history, middle-schoolers and teens are connecting with fewer and fewer supervisory structures in place. The protections that do exist are strained by the pandemic restrictions and accommodations as kids go to school online, part-time, or take a break from education altogether.

Perhaps you are a parent who is working longer hours. Unintentionally, you may be less aware that a young couple in your midst is stressed and leaning so heavily on each other that their dependence is becoming toxic. You aren’t alone. This month is a way to get informed.

The Importance of the TDVAM Campaign

TDVAM is devoted to boosting awareness about teen dating abuse in ways that won’t alienate teens or shame parents. Instead, there is a wealth of information, advocacy opportunities, concrete guidance, and discreet emergency options if necessary.

Dating Violence Awareness Month: What You Need to Know

Young people and their communities are encouraged to prioritize and embrace self-love this month. We can all benefit from understanding that romance without respect renders relationships harmful, damaging, or even dangerous.

On the whole, TDVAM this year is virtual and focused on education and prevention.  A wealth of information is provided from the CDC who provides a fact sheet exploring dating violence.

Teens and  parents may not be aware of these disturbing statistics regarding teen relationships::

  • 22% of women and 15% of men who are rape/violence/stalking victims as adults, first experienced partner violence between 11 and 17 years old
  • Young people victimized during their high school years are at higher risk for
    violence during college.
  • Dating violence often has a negative effect on health. Depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are more likely. Antisocial behaviors and suicidal ideation are more likely too.

What’s worse, when 500 teens and young people were surveyed, 57 percent waited more than six months before seeking help. Sadder still, 40% of those young people, never reported the abusive relationship behavior at all.

How Did Teen Dating Violence Become so Prevalent?

The truth is, many people just don’t know unhealthy relationship behaviors when they see them.

Parents believe they will know if their child is in trouble in an instant. But studies show that’s just not the case. Teens often take their relationship cues from entertainment and social media. Neither proves to be the best places for that sort of guidance. Social, racial, and sexual inequities only serve to exacerbate the crisis.

Unhealthy relationships often start early, perhaps before anyone really realizes how damaging their ideas about love really are. Unfortunately, as time goes on, behaviors like disrespectful “teasing”,  rough-housing, and demanding tech habits become normal.

Before you know it, these behaviors become linked to ideas about love, and abuse becomes a lifelong pattern.

Let A Professional Help

The theme for TDVAM 2021 is Know Your Worth. As a parent, you have the influence to make that theme a reality in your teen’s life. Early conversations, support, patience, and unconditional love are vital if you believe your child might be the victim or the controlling partner.

Teens need help figuring out how to love and respect each other, romantically and otherwise. Providing guidance and teaching the appropriate skillset is a big job. The support of a qualified therapist might be helpful right now. Please read more about teen counseling and reach out for a consultation. Let’s encourage and empower your teen together.