By Alison Pastor, JWI
Since President Obama declared February to be national Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month (TDVAM) in 2012, support for the issue has been growing exponentially. Last February’s national TDVAM campaign reached more than 1.3 million young adults and teens through education and training, community outreach and social media. This January, the White House released a report on rape and sexual assault that includes current and consistent data about the prevalence sexual violence in America and the economic consequences of sexual assault, as well as descriptions of the government’s actions to reduce sexual violence and plans for further steps. And this month, the TDVAM campaign is expanding even more, educating larger populations of teens and young adults with increased outreach to local and national partners, specifically to organizations focused on violence prevention. Additional funding from the government and various organizations will help the TDVAM campaign answer the growing demand for educational programs with more resources – especially videos, webinars and other user-friendly online materials.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately 1 in 5 women who ever experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking first experienced some form of violence between the ages of 11 and 17 years old. Additionally, about 70% of college students say they have been sexually coerced. Sexual assault has become an issue on college campuses nationwide; many cases go unreported and victims are often traumatized and suffer from mental disorders as a result.
My own school – the University of Maryland – is a good case study in the right way to respond: The University Health Center implemented CARE (Campus Advocates Respond & Educate) to Stop Violence to spread awareness about and prevent sexual assault on campus. The initiative works to respond to incidents of sexual assault and educate the UMD community about the prevalence of sexual violence, how to be more aware in order to prevent it, and how to respond to various situations that could potentially lead to sexual assault. CARE offers students a 24/7 crisis phone line, assistance with incidence reporting, information on how to help victims, and access to more campus resources for support. CARE also offers four educational presentations on Sexual Violence; Rape; Relationship Violence; and Stalking.
There are several ways to get involved this month:
• Wear orange show your support for the issue, and post pictures on Facebook and other social media sites using the hashtags #TDVAM and #respectweek.
• Read the National Respect Announcement on February 14th. Share it on social media or post flyers in schools, offices and community centers.
• Access various educational and outreach resources through the toolkit and sign up to receive updates about TDVAM.
• Encourage government officers to issue official proclamations recognizing and supporting TDVAM in your community.
• Host an event such as a speaker, a rally or vigil, or a house party to inform community members about the teen dating violence epidemic and instruct them on how to get involved and spread awareness.
• Attend a webinar to understand dating abuse and develop the tools needed to administer and engage in conversations about healthy relationships with teens.
For information on JWI’s violence against women advocacy and other women’s issues, visit JWI’s action center.