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February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: #1Thing

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

Early Roots: Protecting Families

In 1981, advocates for women and children created Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM) to raise awareness about domestic violence and spread reliable facts and knowledge about its prevalence and consequences. Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) is the product of that same awareness and advocacy movement. The goals of DVAM and TDVAM are serious, and it’s important to distinguish these months by recognizing the necessity of their origin.

Specifically, early advocates organized the first awareness month of this type – the DVAM – in order to:

  1. Mourn those who had died because of domestic violence
  2. Support victims of domestic violence
  3. Connect those who work to end domestic violence

This movement brought national attention to the disturbing phenomenon of domestic violence. Over the past four decades, advocates have connected the dots between domestic violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and rape, all of which are far too common in the U.S. Because of the tireless work of these family and women’s rights pioneers, we now observe National Stalking Awareness Month (NSAM) each January and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month each February.

Awareness Works: Spread the Word

The goal of these awareness months and the movement that created them is to help victims and their families. We publish articles like this one to do the same: help people who experience these types of violence by raising awareness and sharing relevant facts and statistics. Domestic violence, intimate partner violence, stalking, and teen dating violence affect some of our most vulnerable populations, and the consequences can be long-term and devastating. People who experience these types of violence often require the help and support of law enforcement, the judicial system, and mental health professionals. However, the stigma against talking about these issues often – despite decades of advocacy and awareness efforts – keeps people from contacting authorities or seeking the help of a counselor or therapist.

This means many victims never get the help they need, never tell anyone, and often suffer alone in silence, shame, and fear.

We want to help end all that.

That’s why we’re joining the Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) movement again this year: we want to spread awareness about this year’s theme.

TDVAM 2020: #1Thing

The theme for TDVAM is simple and effective.

Advocates want every teen in the U.S. to learn one thing about teen dating violence and share that one thing with a friend.

That’s all: just one thing.

Here’s what the website LoveisRespect has to say to teens about this year’s theme:

“Every teen can make a difference. We’re starting at square one together to build healthy relationships from the ground up. By just learning or doing one thing, you can start the conversation about healthy relationships in your friend circles, schools and communities. Everyone has a part in the ending dating abuse, even if that one thing seems small in the moment.”

We can help achieve this goal by offering teens facts – as in more than one – to learn and share with a friend.

We’ll start with the big picture statistics. We collected this data from the Love is Respect website and the National Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence Survey (NISVS):

  • 20% of women and 14% of men experience physical, emotional, or sexual violence during their teen years.
  • 33% of women and 25% of men will experience relationship violence at some point during their lives.
  • 5 million high school students in the U.S. experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year.
  • 33% of teens who experience violence in their relationships tell someone about it

One thing that may explain the persistence and prevalence of teen dating violence is that often, adults don’t know it’s happening. In fact, statistics show most adults do not know the signs of teen dating violence or understand what to do about it if they do recognize the signs.

Here are the statistics on the adult side of the story:

  • 81% of parents say it’s not an issue or say they don’t know if it is or not.
  • 82% of parents say they’d know if their teen was experiencing abuse, but less than half – only 42% – could properly identify the signs of teen dating violence/abuse.
  • 80% of high school counselors say they’re not prepared to handle reports/incidents of teen dating abuse in their schools.

That’s the first round of things for teens to know about dating violence. It happens far more frequently than most people think, and adults don’t always know what to look for, or what to do about it if they do know what to look for. That’s why this year’s theme is critical for teens. It teaches them they can educate one another and their parents about teen dating violence.

Now, we’ll move on to our next set of facts teens can learn and share: the consequences of teen dating violence.

Teen Dating Violence: Consequences

Research from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows victims of relationship violence are at increased risk of:

Those risks increase for both teenage boys and teenage girls. However, some consequences of sexual violence are specific to teenage girls.

Teenage girls who experience sexual violence are:

  • Six times more likely to become pregnant during their teen years
  • Twice as likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection

There are also disturbing statistics on women who experience sexual violence or rape:

  • 94% experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within two weeks of rape or assault
  • 30% report PTSD symptoms nine months after the rape or assault
  • 33% of women who are raped think about attempting suicide
  • 13% of women who are raped attempt suicide

We have one more set of statistics to share about the consequences of sexual violence, which describes how sexual assault or rape can disrupt relationships across all areas of life. These statistics apply to boys as well as girls:

  • 38% of people who experience sexual violence also experience problems at work or school
  • 37% experience problems with family and friends, including:
    • Increase in arguments
    • Decrease in feelings of trust for friends/family
  • 84% of people who experience intimate partner violence also experience moderate to severe emotional issues
  • 79% of people who experience sexual violence or assault by a friend or acquaintance also experience moderate to severe emotional issues

That’s an overwhelming amount of data that confirms the need for articles like this one. It also reiterates the validity of the #1Thing theme for TDVAM. Teens reading this article can find at least twenty-five facts above to learn and share with friends.

That’s a start.

Join the Movement

We want to expand the #1Thing theme to include parents, teachers, school administrators, and anyone involved in the life of a teenager who has the time and energy to help. While teens can reach and influence one another via in-person conversations, social media posts, and participating in awareness events, adults need to get on board as well. Adults can do the talking and sharing, too, but most importantly, adults need to listen to their teenage children when they speak up about teen dating violence or assault. In most cases, adults need to get involved to help teen victims and their friends contact authorities, seek treatment, or handle the consequence of dating violence.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the other side of this phenomenon: those who perpetrate the attacks. Of course, it’s correct to focus on the victims. They need our help. But it’s also correct to understand that those who commit these crimes need our help, as well. Addressing one without the other is illogical, because it only considers half of the problem. That’s a difficult sentence to write, but it’s true.

Here are two articles we published last year that can help parents who think their teen may be a perpetrator of teen dating violence:

How Can Parents Tell If a Teen Is a Perpetrator of Dating Violence?

Teen Dating Violence: What To Do If Your Teen is Abusive

And here are several articles we published last year that focus on victims of teen dating violence:

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month:  Know the Facts

Teen Dating Violence: Ten Signs to Watch For

If a Parent Thinks Their Teenager is a Victim of Dating Violence, How Can They Be Sure?

Physical and Sexual Dating Violence Among Teens – Are You at Risk?

What To Do If You’re A Victim of Teen Dating Violence

Additional Resources

We’ll end by offering resources that help teens understand more about teen dating violence.

This February, learn and share just one thing about teen dating violence. It only takes one person to start a conversation that can change – and even save – a teenager’s life.

Our Behavioral Health Content Team

We are an expert team of behavioral health professionals who are united in our commitment to adolescent recovery and well-being.

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