Sometimes I feel like my job is just too much fun. I get to spend a lot of time visiting the hallways of adolescence and hanging out with teenagers, talking about one of their (and my) favorite topics of conversation: flirting. And I learn new things every day. Like when I asked 200 seventh graders to describe what it feels like to be flirted with. Best answer? TWINKLY.
Teenagers are awesome. If you ask the right questions, they have a wealth of wisdom about what healthy sexuality and healthy relationships look like. This is honestly amazing considering the images of sex and relationships that have saturated the media they’ve grown up consuming. But these negative messages in the media still take their toll. It’s important to remember that while they may know the right answers when they are asked in the classroom, as many as 1 in 3 teens experience dating violence. The reality of teen dating violence in America reflects a need for more questions, more conversations, and more awareness.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and here’s what you can do this month to help us end a national epidemic:
Step 1: Get Informed!
The problem of teen dating violence is much more common than people think:
- 1 in 3 adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.
- 1 in 4 high school girls have been victims of physical or sexual abuse.
- Nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year.
Step 2: Learn About HEALTHY dating relationships!
Check out this video to hear what teens are saying:
Step 3: Talk About It!
Teens need to hear from all adults in their lives that they have a right to expect respect in their dating relationships. Check out LoveIsRespect.org, one of my favorite sites for ideas on how to talk with teens in your life. They also have some really cool quizzes, tools, and videos by teens for teens.
Step 4: Get Involved
Want to know what your community is doing to help teens redefine healthy dating? Consider volunteering as a Community Educator (CE) for the Center or the Compass Center in our joint program, Start Strong. CEs present multi-day sessions to sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth graders through their health classes. Our programs increase important protective factors against sexual and relationship violence through empathy building, media literacy, and bystander empowerment.
Let’s all work together to help the teens in our lives keep their teen dating relationships healthy, respectful and, well… twinkly.
Rachel Valentine is our Rape Prevention Education (RPE) Coordinator. She works with youth, parents, and professionals to prevent sexual violence in our community.