Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This can be a difficult topic to learn about, but it’s important to understand the cultural landscape youth are navigating and how we can help guide them in healthy decision making and self-advocacy.

What is considered “dating violence”?

Dating violence is more than just physical violence; it can include emotional abuse, verbal abuse, bullying, stalking, intimidation, etc. Dating violence can be difficult to detect and often times gets clouded over or ignored within our society’s expectations of gender norms and stereotypes.

What’s going on with youth?

Being aware of the daily reality youth encounter is critical in adapting preventative and responsive approaches.

  • 1 in 3 girls in the US is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence. (LoveisRespect.Org)
  • 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. (Hope Alliance, 2018)
  • Only 33% of teens who were in an abusive relationship ever told anyone about the abuse. (LoveisRespect.Org)
  • 81% of parents believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t know it’s an issue. (LoveisRespect.Org)
  • Sexual harassment is linked to bullying and has roots in elementary school. 43% of students in grades 5 – 8th say they have been victims of verbal sexual harassment (including sexual comments, jokes, and gestures) in the past year (SAFE, 2019).

What can we do about it?

Teaching about empowerment, self-esteem, and healthy relationships helps to create protective factors to that grow resilience and assist in the prevention of future instances of violence (CDC, 2022), which is why we’ve built these components into all of our programs. Establishing awareness of red flags, teaching the need to create boundaries and demand for consent, and enabling access to a trusted adult can make all the difference.

While addressing difficult topics, it’s important to create a space that allows youth to be their authentic selves, leading to deeper learning and discovery. This is done through the use of empowering language, valuing their voice, validating experiences and reducing shame, and allowing space for questions. In addition to including trauma informed/responsive prevention tools in YWRC programs, we’ve also begun a new-to-us program, Expect Respect®.

The Expect Respect® program’s goal is to increase self-awareness, self-esteem, self-advocacy, and self-control (autonomy and agency) and by doing so, build protective factors that further support the prevention of dating violence or unhealthy relationships.

We offer students, starting at 5th grade, an opportunity to learn about the warning signs and indicators of violence – including bullying, dating violence, and violence within close relationships. Girls learn skills for building safe and healthy relationships while nurturing self-advocacy and increasing confidence, both of which are critical building blocks of resilience. Our Expect Respect® program ensures a consistent and safe space for students to share and build meaningful connections with each other as well as with a supportive adult. Research shows that such connections and a strong social network, along with the ability to identify a trusted adult, can prevent future incidences of bullying and harassment.

Resources/Next Steps:

First of all, if you have experienced violence please know you did nothing to deserve it. It is not your fault.

If you suspect a friend or family member is experiencing bullying or dating violence, arrange a time to talk. Be supportive and validate their experience, ensuring there is no blaming or shaming, and offer to support them however they need it/want it.

Do you know youth that may benefit from our groups or counseling? You can view information on all YWRC programming here.

Interested in having Expect Respect® in your school? Contact Hayl, Expect Respect® Program Coordinator, by email here.

If you need immediate assistance with concerns about your relationship, Love is Respect is an organization with 24/7 availability: CALL 1-866-331-9474, CHAT: https://www.loveisrespect.org, or TEXT: “LOVEIS” to 22522.


Expect Respect® with the YWRC is a program developed by SAFE, and the Expect Respect® mark and logo are owned by SAFE in Austin, TX, and used under license.