February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month which is an issue that not only impact teens, but their families, teachers, friends, and communities. Together we can raise awareness about teen dating violence (TDV) and promote safe, healthy relationships. Understanding what TDV is and what it means for those who are involved is an important first step in prevention.

What is TDV?

Many teen relationships are characterized as unhealthy or violent contributing to 1.5 million who suffer from dating abuse by an intimate partner. Romantic relationships are happening in teens as young as 12 or 13. Dating violence can turn violent when teens do not understand how to communicate their feelings effectively, are suffering from depression or anxiety, are being peer pressured, or when drugs and alcohol are introduced.

The facts

  • One in three teens are victims of TDV by physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse;
  • One in ten high school students has been physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend;
  • Girls experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence;
  • Violent behavior typically begins between the ages of 12 and 18; and
  • In the U.S., 25% of high school girls have been abused physically or sexually.

Lifelong behaviors

Dating violence is a problem in the United States and research reveals that some violent behaviors stem from childhood and can linger into adult years. Teens who are in violence or abusive relationships are more likely to be in unhealthy or abusive relationships later in life. Many domestic abusers report having been sexually, physically, or emotionally abused as a child or teenager.

Research has also shown there is a connection between dating violence and homicide. Half of all female victims are killed by someone they know. This is true for teens and adults. Since victims underreport abuse, the number of teens affected by dating violence is much higher.

It is important to recognize TDV as a serious problem and should be addressed now to inhibit more violent behavior. Failing to recognize TDV as a serious issue puts young people in harm’s way. We need to educate teens and provide more resources about dating violence.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, TDV is a common occurrence, but everyone has the ability to join together for a national effort to raise awareness of teen dating violence. Teachers, counselors, parents, and friends of victims can recognize the signs and help the abused youth seek help.

If you have a child, talk to them about safe dating interactions. As a parent, you can also keep an eye on your child and the behavior as well as the behavior of the partner they are dating. It is important to encourage open and free communication. Many victims of TDV do not seek assistance or guidance because they feel embarrassed, afraid of their parents or fearful of their peers.

2020 TDV Theme

This year’s theme is #1Thing. By just learning or doing one thing, you can start the conversation about healthy relationships in your friend circles, schools, and communities. Every step towards ending dating violence is an important one!

If you want to be an advocate and spread awareness on social media, click here to access social media graphics. Also, don’t forget to wear orange on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Day!

Joining in raising awareness, victim advocate Brandi Lowery will be talking about Lone Star Legal Aid’s services through its Legal Assistance to Survivors of Sexual Assault and Victim of Crime Assistance on FM 90.1 KPFT Pacifica Radio‘s The People’s News on Friday, February 14, 2020, from 2-3 PM.

If you or a loved one are a victim of dating abuse and need assistance, you can visit the Texas Crime Victim Legal Assistance Network.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org.