Teen Dating Violence on the Rise: Rose Brooks Center Joins 2009 National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week Observance
February 2-6, 2009, is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week (TDVAPW), and victim advocates throughout the country are using this week as an opportunity to educate the public about the pervasive crime that inconspicuously affects teenagers worldwide.
Teen dating violence—the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship—encompasses any form of sexual assault, physical violence, and verbal or emotional abuse. This abuse directly affects approximately 1 in 5 high school girls1 and can lead to serious ramifications for victims by putting them at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, suicide and adult revictimization.2
Students have told us that abusive relationships are all around them. It’s not just a problem for the vulnerable and weak; even the emotionally strongest young woman can be manipulated by an abuser. There often seems to be no escape from abusers who calls themselves a boyfriend or girlfriend.
Young victims of abuse are often afraid to reach out to adults for help. Here in Kansas City to address this problem, Rose Brooks Center created a program called Project SAFE, which provides one-on-one support and group support to students at their school. Rose Brooks Center’s staff is currently in four school districts, in 44 schools, seeing over 1500 students each week. Counselors talk with students about the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Few teens know that dictating what they wear and who they see are signs of a controlling personality. Even fewer realize that making them feel stupid in front of their friends or calling them names, is abuse. They know when they are slammed into a locker or slapped across the face that they are in a violent relationship, but don’t know what the signs are that lead up to that violence. Many teens, girls and boys, don’t really know what a healthy relationship looks like since they have never been exposed to one. Counselors help them define what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Most important, they focus on their self worth. We know that when individuals feel good about themselves, they don’t hurt others and are less likely to be hurt.
Dating violence is a serious public health problem that must be addressed. Through programs like Rose Brooks Center’s Project SAFE, we have the opportunity to provide the tools for teens to develop safe and healthy relationships.
Community members are invited to join in observing TDVAPW and to get involved in helping victims of teenage dating violence by supporting our Project SAFE program. For additional information about TDVAPW and additional information on teen dating violence, please contact Rose Brooks Center at 816-523-5550.
1. Silverman, J. G., Raj, A., Mucci, L. A., Hathaway, J. E. (2001). Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. JAMA, 286(5).
2. Liz Claiborne Inc. study on teen dating abuse conducted by Teenage Research Unlimited, February 2005.