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February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM)

By Rocio Fernandez Lugo

The purpose of TDVAM is to raise the nation’s awareness about teen dating violence and promote safe, healthy relationships.  The 2023 theme for TDVAM is “Be About It” and it aims to educate, engage, and empower the voices of teens and young adults.

The statistics show that one in three teens in the U.S. experiences abuse (physical, sexual, emotional) from someone they’re romantically involved with. Youth aged 12 to 19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault. Girls are particularly vulnerable to experiencing violence in their relationships and are more likely to suffer long-term behavioral and health consequences, including suicide attempts, eating disorders, and drug use.

WARNING SIGNS YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW MAY BE IN AN UNHEALTHY RELATIONSHIP:

  • Your partner checks your phone, email, or social media accounts without your permission.

  • Your partner puts you down frequently, especially in front of others.

  • Your partner isolates you from friends or family (physically, financially, or emotionally).

  • Your partner demonstrates extreme jealousy or insecurity.

  • Your partner has explosive outbursts, temper, or mood swings.

  • Your partner inflicts physical harm.

  • Your partner is possessive and has a controlling behavior.

  • Your partner pressures you or forces you to have sex.

 

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Everyone can make a difference by reaching out to young people in simple ways.  As we interact with teens in our work or personal lives, we can stand against teen dating violence by:

  • Discussing the warning signs of dating abuse (all kinds, not just physical abuse). 

  • Creating a positive connection to the issue and talking about the characteristics of healthy teen relationships, not just abusive ones.

  • Talking about how the media and social media portray healthy and unhealthy relationships.  For example, many popular movies, TV shows, and commercials, portray stalking as romantic or harmless when it is actually very dangerous. 

  • Getting involved even if you don’t have a lot of resources. An information table, classroom discussion, or school announcement can get the conversation started. 

  • Visit www.loveisrespect.org, an online platform with excellent resources to amplify efforts and shine a spotlight on this important issue.

  • Contact an advocate at Hands of Hope Resource Center by calling 320-732-2319 (Long Prairie), 320-632-1657 (Little Falls), or the 24/7 hotline at 320-632-4878 or 800-682-4547. Services are free, confidential, and available in Spanish.

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