February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, or TDVAM. During this observance, we discuss the issue and its effects, for it impacts everyone from the teens themselves to their parents, their families, friends, teachers and communities. By raising national awareness on the reality of violence in teen dating, we can thus cultivate safe and healthy relationships among teens.
An Unfortunately Widespread Issue
Studies show that youths from age 12 to 19 are most at risk of rape and sexual assault. And 10% of adolescents report experiencing physical violence from an intimate partner. Girls are particularly vulnerable to teen dating violence and are more likely to exhibit long-term behavioral and health consequences. These include suicide attempts, eating disorders and drug use.
The impact of abusive relationships on adolescents can last for the rest of their lives. These unhealthy patterns of violence are often carried into future relationships. Those who are victimized or witness violence can carry these experiences elsewhere, into their homes, to their classrooms and playgrounds. Later on, these are brought into teen relationships and, ultimately, they become victims or perpetrators of adult intimate partner violence.
Participating and Making a Difference During Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month
This is the reason for the monthly observance, because the violence experienced by many youths - and the consequences of these experiences - can't be neatly tucked away, hidden or ignored. These problems cannot be isolated. This is why it's important to bring it out of the shadows and into the light, so people - teens, families, communities - can discuss these matters and their impacts. Those who have remained silent can finally speak up, while those who are unaware of the subject will have a chance to learn. People can be brought together. And by doing this, they can find much needed support and determine how they can break the cycle of violence.
Here in Sharpen, we're doing our part through researching and developing systems designed to help affected individuals and communities alike in dealing with these problems. Our systems connect people to resources, programs and networks tailored to a variety of vulnerable demographics and professionals aiding them. These include people working with foster parents and youth, college students, K-12 schools, and those in private health and mental health practices.
sharpenFAMILY brings a wealth of trusted educational tools and resources for foster care families, children and service providers. It was created in collaboration with more than 15 agencies specializing in child advocacy and childhood development.
sharpenUP was developed in collaboration with researchers in developmental psychology, public health, and education. sharpenUP Schools is tailored to the opportunities and challenges of the K-12 experience for students, parents, faculty and administrators. SharpenUP Colleges is tailored to the opportunities and challenges of the college experience for students, parents, faculty and administrators. sharpenUP! includes developmentally appropriate trainings and resources on the tough topics students may face.
sharpenHEALTH was developed in collaboration with researchers in public health, psychology and resilience. The content and networks support providers in private practice, their patients and families!
While there’s still so much more to do in the overarching cause of Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention, the progress has been undeniable. We can draw inspiration from the work that has been done, and use this to drive us forward. The most encouraging thing about this work is that raising awareness and working towards prevention are things anyone and everyone can do. We can all make a difference by reaching out to young people and connecting with our communities even in relatively simple ways. Every little bit counts, and when we all pitch in, these become more and more significant. We're just getting started!