Valentine’s Day may be February 14th, but sometimes it feels like the whole month is dedicated to the subject of love and dating.
While adults might feel pressure to get coupled up, engaged or married this month, teens are in an even tougher situation having to navigate hormones, budding romances and dating. Some teens are still learning what their boundaries are in relationships, and some are uncertain of what healthy relationships even are.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month aims to help teens and their parents clear the air about what constitutes a healthy relationship vs. the extreme of dating violence.
As part of the awareness campaign, this week is considered “Respect Week,” and participants are encouraged to read the following message out loud at school or to share online on Valentine’s Day:
“This Valentine’s Day, we’d like to remind you that everyone deserves a safe and healthy relationship. If you or someone you know has a question about a relationship, healthy or unhealthy, visit loveisrespect.org or text 'loveis' to 22522. Remember, love has many definitions, but abuse isn't one of them.”
As part of the continuing campaign, the website Loveisrespect.org offers many resources, including contact information for the National Dating Abuse Helpline (1-866-331-9474).
So what is dating violence exactly? The official awareness month website, teendvmonth.org, defines it as “a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.”
Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said in an email that dating violence can come in many forms including emotional, physical, verbal, sexual and through social media.
“In many instances there is a sense of feeling uneasy, although not all teens or individuals tap into their intuitive instincts of safety,” she said.
In cases where teens grow up in abusive households, they might not know they are in unhealthy relationships.