Feb 18, 2021

President Joseph Biden has continued a recent, annual tradition with a White House Proclamation that observes February 2021 as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Announced Feb. 3, the proclamation reads in part:

This February, during National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, we stand with those who have known the pain and isolation of an abusive relationship, and we recommit to ending the cycle of teen dating violence that affects too many of our young people. Together, it’s on all of us to raise the national awareness about teen dating violence and promote safe and healthy relationships….

Now, therefore, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim February 2021 as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month.  I call upon all Americans to support efforts in their communities and schools, and in their own families, to empower young people to develop healthy relationships throughout their lives and to prevent and respond to teen dating violence.  It’s on all of us.

Locally, theLancaster County District Attorney’s Office, made a similar announcement, noting:

“…dating violence is more common than people think.  One in three teens in the U.S. will experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse from someone they are in a relationship with before they become  adults.  Nearly half (43%) of college students report being the victim of abuse by someone with whom they are in a dating relationship.  In 2010 Congress declared that February be designated as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) devoting the entire month to teen dating violence awareness and prevention.”

The Eastern PA Conference Domestic Violence Committee sponsors annual fall events—observing National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October—to spread awareness of domestic violence, its impact on men, women and children, and the responsibility and opportunities for churches to respond. Visit the committee’s web page to learn more. The DV Committee is always looking for more members and for individuals and churches to engage with in education and action related to domestic violence.

Here is a resourceful article adapted from Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month at youth.gov, the U.S. government website that helps create, maintain, and strengthen effective youth programs.

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM). No doubt the timing is related to Valentine’s Day; but it’s a growing concern for youth and their families year-round. This is an issue that impacts everyone – not just teens – but their parents, teachers, friends and communities as well. Together, we can raise the nation’s awareness about teen dating violence and promote safe, healthy relationships.

What Is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month?

In his Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month Proclamation former President Barack Obama called on all Americans “to stand against dating violence when we see it.”  At a time when an estimated 1 in 10 teens will experience dating violence we all must take this opportunity to amplify our efforts and shine a spotlight on this important issue. 

Nationwide, youth age 12 to 19 experience the highest rates of rape and sexual assault.  Studies show that approximately 10% of adolescents report being the victim of physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner during the previous year.  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.

Adolescents in abusive relationships often carry these unhealthy patterns of violence into future relationships.  Indeed, children who are victimized or witness violence frequently bring this experience with them to the playground, the classroom, later into teen relationships and, ultimately, they can end up the victims and perpetrators of adult intimate partner violence.

How Do I Participate in Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month?

During Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM), we aim to break the cycle of violence by providing support and services to victims, their families and their communities.  The following activities represent just a few of the exciting ways that everyone can – and hopefully will – engage in this work:

  • TeenDVmonth Toolkit (link is external) – a brand new toolkit released by Break the Cycle just in time for TDVAM.  The toolkit provides adult allies with resources to engage communities, especially youth, in a discussion about healthy relationships. 
  • National Dating Abuse Helpline(link is external).  This site offers helpful information on finding, creating and maintaining safe relationships for teens. It also provides tips and resources.   
  • That’s Not Cool Ambassador Program(link is external) – the Ambassador Program is a unique opportunity for teens to raise awareness with friends, family, and the community at large.  By completing monthly challenges, That’s Not Cool Ambassadors contribute their unique voices to this national initiative while helping to raise awareness about digital dating abuse in their schools and local communities.  All teens and tweens across the country are invited to join this Futures Without Violence(link is external) initiative. 
  • Preventing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence(link is external)– this collection of materials including curricula, training tools, guide books, fact sheets, applied research papers, and model programs, emphasizes collaborative and multilevel approaches to the prevention of and response to teen dating violence.  It includes information related to: 1) young people, 2) parents and care takers, 3) men and boys, 4) teachers and school-based professionals, 5) health care professionals, and 6) domestic violence and sexual violence service providers.
  • Runaway & Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Toolkit(link is external)– this toolkit was developed by and for advocates, from the runaway and homeless youth and domestic violence and sexual assault fields, to help programs better address relationship violence among youth who have run away from home, are living on the streets or are homeless.  Sections of the toolkit include key terms and definitions, research and resources, a look at each field, recommendations for building partnerships and services, sample materials, and help for teens in need.  Check out this one page fact sheet(link is external) about the toolkit (PDF, 1 page).   

Blog!  Tweet!  Or Participate in a Webinar!

Talk to Teens!

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 each of us can act on President Obama’s call to stand against teen dating violence by:

  • Discussing the warning signs(link is external) of dating abuse (all kinds(link is external), not just physical abuse). 
  • Creating a positive connection to the issue – talk about the characteristics of healthy teen relationships(link is external), not just abusive ones – and use statistics sparingly.
  • Talking about how the media portrays healthy and unhealthy relationships.  For example, many popular movies, TV shows, commercials, books, and magazines 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. 

Anyone Can Do It!

Anyone can participate in TDVAM!  Consider one of the following activities:

How Do I Get Help?

If you know of a teen or parent that could benefit from speaking to a caring, well-trained peer advocate, please connect them with the National Dating Abuse Helpline, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at 1-866-331-9474 (TTY: 1-866-331-8453), by texting “loveis” to 77054, or through live chat at loveisrespect.org.(link is external)
For more information, please visit the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Women.

Other resources: