February marks the second annual Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Teen Dating Violence received national attention during the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2005.  The goal of this month is to shine a light on abuse in teen relationships and focus our energy towards prevention efforts.


 

Two years ago 19-year-old Siobhan Russell was found brutally stabbed to death by her 17-year-old boyfriend in Oak Hill, Virginia. In 2010, Siobhan’s abuser was arrested and sentenced to 40 years in prison. After living through this horrific event, Siobhan’s mother was determined to do all that she could to prevent other acts of abuse and violence. She now runs an organization to raise awareness about teen dating violence, where she speaks to communities about the warning signs of dating violence. She is an example for us all.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month and it is critical that we take this time to remember that domestic violence is not just a problem for adults. One in three adolescents in the US will be a victim of physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Nearly 80% of girls who have been physically abused in their intimate relationships continue to date their abuser. And two-thirds of teens who are in an abusive relationship never tell anyone about the abuse. It’s time to shine a light on this issue.

Recognizing abuse in a relationship can be difficult, especially for teens. There are many types of abuse that young people may believe are normal in a relationship. Even though teen relationships may be different from adult relationships, teens can experience the same types of abuse. Teens also face unique obstacles if they decide to get help. They may not have money, transportation or a safe place to go. They may also concerns about confidentiality with many adults obligated to make reports to police, parents and/or child protective services.

But, teens have a right to safe and healthy relationships. Your community, should take the lead in raising awareness and preventing teen dating violence. There are many ways that you can take part:

  • Encourage legislators to introduce laws that require teen dating violence education in the classroom. Teens spend the majority of their time in school or at school-related activities and without laws in place to protect them, domestic and sexual violence among teens will continue to cause upheaval at home and at school. Encourage school leaders to step up if legislators will not and offer to pay the often small fees (less than $100) for effective dating violence prevention curricula.
  • Know the laws in your state. Unfortunately, Virginia rates F on the national dating violence grade, [available online at http://www.breakthecycle.org/content/teen-dating-violence-state-law-report-cards%5D
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  •  Take the time to educate yourself and others about teen dating violence. The following websites offer information about teen dating violence and what you can do to help:

Like Siobhan’s mother, you can make a difference.

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