Teen Dating and Violence Awareness Month: Love is Respect, Right?

Just as adults find themselves in unhealthy relationships, teens and young adults can also experience abuse in their intimate relationships. In 2010, both houses of Congress dedicated February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (Break the Cycle).

Teen dating violence can be defined by any number of factors. In this age of technology and social media, those platforms can be used against teens to harass or threaten them. Cyber bullying, sexting, Facebook stalking, cell phone snooping, and other abusive uses of technology is known as Digital Abuse. Coercion for sexual activity, unwanted intimate advances, sexual assault, and rape is Sexual Abuse. Verbal and Emotional Abuse includes non-physical threats such as intimidation, stalking, name-calling, and public intimidation. The use of force by hitting, bodily injury, or the use of a weapon is Physical Abuse.

In the US, one in three girls has been victimized by the physical, emotional, or verbal abuse of a dating partner. One in ten high school students were physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend, and one quarter of high school girls have been the victims of sexual abuse or date rape. Additionally, one in six college age women have been sexually abused or have experienced digital dating abuse while in a dating relationship.

But, why the focus on teens? Violent behavior towards a partner often begins between the ages of 12 and 18. 72% of eighth and ninth graders say they are “dating.” Among females ages 16-19, 94% have been victims of partner violence, with victims in that age bracket experiencing violence at three times the national average. Along with sexual assault and rape, there are additional consequences of these relationships; substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, teen pregnancy, and attempted suicides have been reported. Half the victims of both dating violence and rape, attempt suicide, as compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys. (teenDVmonth) Because teens are still developing emotionally, these negative relationship experiences can affect them over a longer period (Center for Disease Control and Prevention).

The “Violence Against Women Online Network” shares data that parents may be out of touch. In a 2009 survey, parents said they had conversations with their teens about healthy relationships –but sons and daughters said they have not discussed dating abuse with a parent. Most parents feel confident they can recognize if there was dating abuse happening; of teens (ages 13-18), nearly half (42%) said their parents know nothing or very little about what they do online. Fewer than one in three (32 percent) teens confide in their parents about their abusive relationships. Often parents reported that they thought their children were too young to talk about the subject of dating violence. (Violence Against Women Online Network)

Because the numbers of rape and sexual assaults are so high in these demographic populations, The Grateful Garment Project wants to ensure the public is educated about these young victims, and that resources are made available to them. They may one day find themselves in a facility seeking medical attention, and in keeping with our mission, TGGP wants to make sure they are provided with the things they need to help restore their dignity.

If you, a friend, or a loved one is in a violent dating relationship, please get help. Visit loveisrespect.org for more information, chat with a peer advocate online, call 866.331.9474 or text “loveis” to 22522.

Click here to find more resources on healthy relationships.

“The mission of The Grateful Garment Project is to ensure that every victim of a sexual crime who crosses the threshold of a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) facility or who seeks medical attention and/or law enforcement involvement is provided with whatever new clothing, toiletries, snacks, and other miscellaneous items that he or she may require. – We invite you to visit the Giving page for ways that you can donate funds or to become a Grateful Giver”.

– Robin Lynn Griffith, Feb. 23, 2014

Break the Cycle. About teenDV Month. n.d. 22 February 2014.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Initmate Partner Violence. 24 December 2013. 22 February 2014.

Love is Respect. While You Wait. Vers. n.v. n.d. Web site. 23 February 2014. http://www.loveisrespect.org

teenDVmonth. Dating Violence. n.d. 22 February 2014.

teenDVmonth. Research. n.d. 22 February 2014.

Violence Against Women Online Network. Special Collections. n.d. 22 February 2014. <http://www.vawnet.org/special-collections/TDV.php>.