Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

FebAware2013It’s Valentine’s Day and February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so it seems like a good time to begin a conversation about healthy relationships. Although many of us think this is an issue that will not impact our own lives, statistics demonstrate that 75% of individuals know someone who has experienced domestic violence.

Domestic violence is a global epidemic that threatens the health and well being of women and girls regardless of race, culture, religion, social status, or other qualifying factors.  Statistics remain stagnant with 1 in 3 women worldwide experiencing violence in their lifetime.  In the Unites States, a woman is beaten every nine seconds.  Domestic violence continues to be the leading cause of injury and death to women.  In fact, four out of ten women murdered die at the hands of intimate partners.  Disturbingly, these numbers represent a very small portion of this epidemic given that upwards of 95% of incidences go unreported.

While language around domestic violence and dating abuse generally refers to women, it is important to understand that this information includes the reality that teenage girls are also impacted by this epidemic.  According to TeenDVMonth.org nearly 1.5 million high school students in the US experience dating violence each year.  In addition, the statistic of 1 in 3 also carries over to high school teens.

Today, young women between the ages of 16-24 report the highest number of incidences and experience domestic violence at a rate that is nearly triple the national average.  Female college students fall into this age range and statistics demonstrate that nearly half of college women have reported experiencing violent and abusive relationships.

It is important to recognize that healthy relationships should include respect, support, and acceptance of one another.  Communication and healthy boundaries are both important elements that allow you to express what your expectations are.  Partners should never be possessive, jealous, or controlling.  Abuse of any kind – physical, verbal, emotional, sexual – is never acceptable.

Consider being proactive and take action to promote healthy relationships.  You can participate in National Respect Week and tweet about the National Respect Announcement using the hashtag #RespectWeek2014.  You can also participate in the nationwide “orange out” this month by wearing orange.  Join the Facebook Event and post a pic of yourself using the hashtags #TDVAM and #RESPECTWEEK. Consider encouraging your community to get a Proclamation or engaging your local media to take a stand against dating violence.

Remember, love never includes violence and you deserve a healthy relationship.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College.

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