February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM), a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in teen and 20-something relationships and promote programs that prevent it. Locally, AVDA (Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse) works with schools, programs for at-risk students and community-based groups on teen abuse prevention by focusing on healthy relationships. AVDA believes early prevention and intervention are the keys to ending domestic abuse.

“Teen and young adult dating abuse is at epidemic levels,” stated AVDA CEO Sherri Kendall. “We know from research that the severity of later intimate partner violence is often greater in cases where the pattern of abuse was established in adolescence.”

One in three girls in the U.S. is a victim of abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.

Dating violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner. This pattern can be different in every relationship, but usually becomes more frequent and more dangerous over time. Dating violence can include physical, verbal, emotional, sexual or technology-facilitated abuse. Teen dating violence can have serious ramifications and place victims at higher risk for future harm, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and future domestic violence.

Take a Stand

Eighty-one percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue! February is a time to call attention to the pervasiveness of teen dating violence. Parents, teachers and athletic coaches can help put an end to the teen dating violence epidemic and take a stand against all abuse through active education and action. The State of Texas’s Teen Dating Violence Policy (TX Education Code 37.0831) actually mandates that each school district in Texas adopt and implement a dating violence policy.

“AVDA’s Community Awareness and Prevention Program is integral to our mission to end family violence,” continued Kendall. “We work year-round to train teachers and coaches how to mentor their students/athletes in building healthy relationships as well as make presentations to high school students on dating violence and the importance of consent.”

Athletic coaches play an extremely influential and unique role in the lives of young men. Because of these relationships, coaches are poised to influence how young men think and behave, both on and off the field. Coaching Boys into Men (CBIM), created by Futures without Violence and implemented locally by AVDA with support from the Astros Foundation, is the only evidence-based prevention program that trains and motivates high school coaches to teach their young male athletes healthy relationship skills and that violence never equals strength.

As a companion to CBIM, Athletes As Leaders™ is a program that trains high school coaches of girls’ sports teams to empower female-identified youth to take an active role in promoting healthy relationships and ending sexual violence. Athletes are encouraged to be leaders in changing school social norms to a culture of safety and respect.

AVDA also provides educational abuse prevention programs for the general student populations of high schools and organizations serving at-risk youth with curricula presented by the Community Awareness and Prevention staff. AVDA’s Teen Abuse Prevention Presentation addresses teenage dating abuse. This presentation educates students on healthy relationships as well as the signs, types and consequences of abuse.

The nationally acclaimed Safe Dates program is designed to stop or prevent the initiation of dating violence victimization and perpetration, including the psychological, physical, and sexual abuse that may occur between youths involved in a dating relationship. Safe dates is an eight-session program that teaches attitudes and behaviors associated with dating abuse and violence.

Join in combating teen and young adult dating violence. Get the facts!

  • Violent behavior often begins between the ages of 12 and 18.
  • One in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence — almost triple the national average.
  • Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.
  • College students are not equipped to deal with dating abuse – 57% say it is difficult to identify, and 58% say they don’t know how to help someone who’s experiencing it.
  • One in three (36%) dating college students has given a dating partner their computer, online access, email or social network passwords, and these students are more likely to experience digital dating abuse.
  • Nearly half (43%) of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors while one in six (16%) college women has been sexually abused in a dating relationship.
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