February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Dating violence goes by a number of different terms: intimate partner violence (IPV) or dating violence. It’s described as ‘physical, sexual, or psychological harm’ by a current or former partner. For teens (and adults), it may be hard to know when actions in a relationship have crossed the line into IPV. If a partner is controlling but not violent is that ok? If a partner prefers you don’t hang out with friends unless they are around is that normal?

It is estimated that more than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the US have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. One in 7 men and 1 in 4 women have experienced severe physical violence (such as being beaten or hit with a fist) by an intimate partner. In addition to the physical consequences of trauma, intimate partner violence is associated with poor sleep, poor mental health, poor physical health, chronic headaches, difficulty with sleep, and other health outcomes.

So what can be done to prevent IPV?

  • Promote health relationships early on! Families can role model respectful relationships and emotionally supportive environments. Foster non-violent communication and conflict resolution well before the teen years.
  • Address beliefs and attitudes that are embedded in our society that condone sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner control. If you hear or see something that is an example (such as a news report of someone using sexually explicit language to describe an intimate encounter or a star athlete who was exonerated from an assault) talk about it!
  • Check out organizations like loveisrespect.org for webinars and information.
  • Wear orange on February 14, 2017 to increase awareness. Post updates on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtags #Orange4Love and #RespectWeek2017