January 28, 2019

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month-Feb 2019

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February is nationally recognized as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). TDVAM is an awareness campaign that aims to generate conversations about healthy relationships and efforts to prevent dating violence and abuse. During the month of February, advocates join efforts to raise awareness about dating violence, highlight promising practices, and encourage communities to get involved.

On January 28th, 2019, the month of February was recognized as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in Spokane by Mayor David Condon and the Spokane City Council with a proclamation to end teen dating violence.  YWCA Spokane advocates, Jessi Taylor and Brit Wilson, accept this proclamation about 9 minutes into the below video.

To build on this momentum, YWCA Spokane is calling for the involvement of parents and teens in a campaign focused on spreading awareness about teen dating violence in our community.

Seeking A Teen’s Perspective On Relationship Abuse

This February, YWCA Spokane is asking young people who are 13­­-­19 years old (as well as college-age youth) to share stories about healthy and unhealthy aspects of their relationships as well as what they want adults to know about teen dating violence by responding to the following questions:

Why do you think it is important to talk about Teen Dating Violence and Healthy Relationships? What should adults know?

Responses of any length may be submitted anonymously or otherwise by teens to YWCA Spokane’s Child and Youth Advocate, Jose Alvarez, at josea@ywcaspokane.org. Questions or comments can also be directed to Jose via email or by calling 509-789-9309.

“1 in 3 adolescents experiences dating violence, but very few report it because they are afraid to tell their friends and family”, states Jessi Taylor, YWCA Spokane Child and Youth Advocate. “As a result, many parents and adults don’t believe teen dating violence is an issue. We hope this campaign will encourage discussions about relationship dynamics with teens and help adults realize it is a very serious and relevant issue for the young people in their lives.”

YWCA Spokane believes one of the greatest challenges of reducing teen dating violence is the lack of awareness surrounding the issue. At the end of February, we plan to publicly share the stories and perspectives gathered from youth to bring attention to teen dating violence in our community, to help young people know they are not alone, and to activate community engagement.

Facts About Teen Dating Violence

Youth Advocate Jessi Taylor with Mayor Condon’s Proclamation declaring February Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Teen dating violence includes behaviors such as physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as cyber abuse and stalking. Abuse can happen in person or over electronic devices such as cell phones and computers.

Eighty-one (81) percent of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know if it’s an issue, as stated by loveisrespect.org. Teen Dating Violence is wide-spread with serious long-term and short-term effects, as stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  1. Violent behavior typically begins between ages 12-18
  2. 1.5 million high school students, both male and female will experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year
  3. 1 in 3 adolescents are the victim of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse
  4. 1 in 10 high school students have been hit, slapped, or hurt physically by a boyfriend or girlfriend
  5. Only 33% of teens tell anyone about the abuse

The CDC states that teens who experience dating violence are more likely to show signs of antisocial behavior, have issues with tobacco, drugs, and alcohol, depression and anxiety, and are more likely to consider suicide. It is also more common that teens who experience these relationships early on are more likely to find themselves in violent relationships in the future, whether they would be the victim or the perpetrator of the violence.

If you are a teen, or a parent of a teen, our Youth Advocate offers education and trauma-informed, advocacy-based counseling to parents and youth exposed to domestic violence. To access these services, please contact Jessi Taylor, YWCA Spokane Youth Advocate, at jessit@ywcaspokane.org or at 509.789.9309.

Who Can Help End the Silence With Teen Dating Violence?

Schools, youth organizations, community centers, religious institutions, and non-profits benefiting teens can all help YWCA Spokane end the silence about teen dating violence in Spokane. We hope organizations, as well as individuals, will encourage participation in our prevention efforts this February as well as throughout the year.

A local teen, Madelyn, 17, wrote:

“It’s important to talk about teen dating violence and healthy relationships because more teens fall victim than you realize. [It’s impacting] teens living in your city, in your school district, and in your neighborhood. Experiencing dating violence causes a lot of trauma to a person, especially an emotionally vulnerable teenager. Having an unhealthy relationship can cause anxiety, depression, loss of self-respect and so many more things that teenagers, or people for that matter, should not be experiencing. Parents can help by not only having the ‘sex talk’ with their children but also they should have the ‘healthy relationship talk’ too. They need to teach them what love and consent looks like (Hint: it is not a little boy pinching and pulling on a little girl’s hair because he likes her). Parents need to create safe and open communication with their children so that if something were to happen, they would know they have someone to help and talk to.”

Talk to Your Teen about dating violence

We know that one in three adolescents in the U.S. 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, which means we need to talk to teens about how to have a healthy relationship. 

Some key things to talk to teens about are boundaries, communication, red flags, and what to expect in a partner. Knowing one’s own boundaries with what they are okay within a relationship is essential, and each person’s boundaries may be different.

Tips for Communication with your Teen

Communication can be hard for teens at times, but it is is very important to a healthy relationship. Some tips to share with your teen to communicate better, courtesy of LoveisRespect, are:

  • Find the Right Time. If something is bothering you and you would like to have a conversation about it, it can be helpful to find the right time to talk. Try to find a time when both you and your partner are calm and not distracted, stressed or in a rush. You might even consider scheduling a time to talk if one or both of you are really busy!
  • Talk Face to Face. Avoid talking about serious matters or issues in writing. Text messages, letters, and emails can be misinterpreted. Talk in person so there aren’t any unnecessary miscommunications. If you’re having trouble collecting your thoughts, consider writing them down ahead of time and reading them out loud to your partner.
  • Do Not Attack. Even when we mean well, we can sometimes come across as harsh because of our word choice. Using “you” can sound like you’re attacking, which will make your partner defensive and less receptive to your message. Instead, try using “I” or “we.” For example, say “I feel like we haven’t been as close lately” instead of “You have been distant with me.”
  • Be Honest. Agree to be honest. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it’s the key to a healthy relationship. Admit that you aren’t always perfect and apologize when you make a mistake instead of making excuses. You will feel better and it will help strengthen your relationship.
  • Check Your Body Language. Let your partner know you’re really listening by giving them your full attention: sit up, face them and make eye contact when speaking. Don’t take a phone call, text or play a video game when you’re talking. Show your partner you respect them by listening and responding.
  • Use the 48 Hour Rule. If your partner does something that makes you angry, you need to tell them about it. But you don’t have to do so right away. If you’re still hurt 48 hours later, say something. If not, consider forgetting about it. But remember your partner can’t read your mind. If you don’t speak up when you’re upset, there is no way for them to apologize or change. Once you do mention your hurt feelings and your partner sincerely apologizes, let it go. Don’t bring up past issues if they’re not relevant.


Tips for Your Teen to Communicate When Angry

  • Stop. If you get really angry about something, stop, take a step back and breathe. Tell your partner you’d like to take a short break before continuing the conversation. Give yourself time to calm down by watching TV, talking to a friend, playing a video game, taking a walk, listening to some music or whatever helps you relax. Taking a break can keep the situation from getting worse.
  • Think. After you’re no longer upset, think about the situation and why you got so angry. Was it how your partner spoke or something they did? Figure out the real problem then think about how to explain your feelings.
  • Talk. Finally, talk to your partner and when you do, follow the tips above.
  • Listen. After you tell your partner how you feel, remember to stop talking and listen to what they have to say. You both deserve the opportunity to express how you feel in a safe and healthy environment.


Red Flags of Teen Dating Violence

Red flags of someone who is in an unhealthy/abusive relationship are important to talk about, as teens may not be aware certain behaviors are not healthy due to social or cultural norms. According to LoveisRespect, red flags of Teen DV include:

  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do
  • Pressuring or forcing you to have sex


Helping Your Teen Understand What a Good Partner Looks Like

Lastly, teens often model their relationships by what they see in their lives, social media, movies, or television, and those relationships are not always healthy or modeling good relationships. Teens should know what they should look for in a partner, and really, what they deserve in a partner. Here is a list of qualities, courtesy of LoveisRespect, to look for in a partner if you want to share with a teen you care about.

  • Treats you with respect.
  • Doesn’t make fun of things you like or want to do.
  • Never puts you down.
  • Doesn’t get angry if you spend time with your friends or family.
  • Listens to your ideas and is able to compromise with you.
  • Isn’t excessively negative.
  • Shares some of your interests and supports you in pursuing what you love.
  • Isn’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Is comfortable around your friends and family.
  • Is proud of your accomplishments and successes.
  • Respects your boundaries and does not abuse technology.
  • Doesn’t require you to “check in” or need to know where you are all the time.
  • Is caring and honest.
  • Doesn’t pressure you to do things that you don’t want to do.
  • Doesn’t constantly accuse you of cheating or being unfaithful.
  • Encourages you to do well in school or at work.
  • Doesn’t threaten you or make you feel scared.
  • Understands the importance of healthy relationships.

YWCA Spokane’s Prevention Team

YWCA Spokane’s Prevention Team currently works with some local organizations and schools on the prevention of teen dating violence by providing support groups and educational opportunities. We hope to grow our outreach into additional schools and youth-related establishments. For more information on what the Prevention Team is doing, and how to involve your teen, please contact Rachael McCrady, YWCA Spokane Prevention Specialist at rachaelm@ywcaspokane.org.

By: Olivia Moorer

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