February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and far too many youth in our communities experience some form of dating violence or abuse. According to data from Love is Respect, 1 in 3 teens will experience some form of abuse in their intimate relationships.
Teen dating violence can take the form of physical, sexual or emotional violence, stalking, cyber abuse, and economic abuse. It can have impacts on a teen’s life far beyond their teenage years, including higher risk for anxiety, depression and suicide, increased risk for drug use and increased risk for future victimization.
But teen dating violence is preventable. There are proven ways to address and reduce dating violence among youth:
- Introducing positive relationship education early to middle and high schoolers
- Build support for policy priorities to prevent and address dating violence and help young people build positive relationships, including:
- VAWA youth programs funding (DOJ)
- FVPSA reauthorization and need for prevention programs and funding
- Funding for RPE
- Funding for culturally specific programs as well as those serving men and boys
- Language within WIOA and other workforce programs that specifically require training on harassment and abuse in the workplace, particularly workplaces with high percentages of young people,
Teenagers and young adults are the future and current leaders of our country, and we need to do all we can to support them to thrive and live free from violence. That means we have to be courageous enough to take the steps today that will prevent violence tomorrow.