Posted by TeenSafe 2016-2017

February is often associated with hearts, flowers, and chocolate. But amidst all things Valentines, February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, which serves as a reminder that relationships can be hard work. As members of TeenSafe, JF&CS Journey to Safety's response to dating abuse in our community, we are committed to addressing and responding to this important issue. Here is a week by week guide suggesting ways you can join us this month and beyond.

Week 1: Get Informed

In order to effectively address the issue, it is important to have a strong understanding of what dating abuse is and how many people are affected by it.

  • Dating abuse is a repeated pattern of behavior that the abuser uses to gain and maintain control over a partner.
  • Categories of abuse:
    • Physical
    • Emotional/verbal
    • Sexual
    • Educational/financial
    • Cultural/identity
  • One in three teens in the US is a victim of abuse from a dating partner with teen violence affecting one and a half million teens every year.

Week 2: Raise Awareness

  • Consider joining TeenSafe and becoming an ambassador in the community.
  • Bring a TeenSafe workshop to your community.
  • Wear orange on February 14 as part of the annual #Orange4Love campaign for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month
  • Watch and share videos to spread the message that love should be safe.
  • Use #teenDVmonth,#loveisrespect and #lovshouldbesafe to share what love and respect mean to you on social media.
  • Learn more through the Respect Week Guide.

Week 3: Learn to Respond

Prevention and intervention occur at the same time so we also need to focus on responding if we see abuse happening. If you are concerned about a friend who is experiencing controlling behaviors in their relationship, here are some ways to respond:

  • Believe your friend's story. Actively listen to their concerns and experiences without judgement.
  • Make sure they are safe.
  • Let them know they don't deserve to be abused.
  • Ask them questions to help them think about the problem. Don't make assumptions.
    • Why do you think they get so jealous?
    • Do they make you feel good about yourself?
    • Are you afraid of them?
  • Support them in thinking through their options. Acknowledge where they are in their process. Ask them what they feel comfortable with and how you can help. Stay? Leave? Talk to their partner? Get professional advice?
  • Do not make decisions for them. They're the experts on their situation. Support them in their own decision.
  • Help them think of supportive adults to talk to and connect them to resources.
    • National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: 866-331- 9474
    • Journey to Safety: 781-647- JFCS (5327)
    • Love Is Respect
    • TeenSafe

It's also our responsibility to respond to the person who is controlling or abusing their partner. Make sure to first determine if this would be a safe conversation to have. If so, this can be done directly with the following steps:

  • Let them know their behavior is not okay. Use clear examples of their action(s).
  • Ask them questions to make them think about their actions.
    • Why did the incident happen?
    • What did you want to happen?
    • How do you think your behavior makes your partner feels?
    • Can you think of a respectful way to handle the situation?
  • Let them know that they have the ability to control their responses to anger, frustration, and pain. Help them think of ways they can react differently.
  • Help them see the impact of their actions.
  • Support them in getting help and trying to change.
  • Guide them to community resources.

Responding does not have to be direct. Another way to help is to talk to trusted adults about your concerns and have them reach out. Either way, be an upstander, not a bystander. Stand up against abuse.

Week 4: Establish Healthy Expectations in Relationships

Understand the aspects of healthy relationships and maintain them in your life:

  • Identify the healthy traits you want in your relationship.
  • Establish relationship expectations with your partner that you both agree on
  • Maintain ongoing communication with your partner to continue to nurture the healthy traits within the relationship. You can use these relationship check-up questions as a resource or come up with your own.

By following one action each week, you can join us in our efforts to prevent dating abuse and maintain healthy relationships among teens. Thank you!