February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM), a national effort to help raise awareness of teen dating violence, provide prevention education, and promote healthy relationships.
The awareness effort focuses on preventing teen dating violence, which affects one in three young people each year. According to the California Partnership To End Domestic Violence, the essence of teen dating violence prevention is “stopping dating and domestic violence before it happens, which requires stopping the conditions promote violence and promote the conditions that prevent violence We need to end systemic/cultural power imbalances (sexism, racism, homophobia, etc.) and instead build healthier communities, connect solid and know our personal value.
Teen dating violence is a problem that affects everyone – teens, their parents, teachers, friends and the whole community. Together, we can raise awareness about teen dating violence in the community and promote safe and healthy relationships.
Educating our young people about the issues is one of the main goals of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. “Teen dating violence is an issue that affects adolescents around the world. It is crucial that we take the lead in educating young people and providing a safe space where students can share their experiences and thoughts on what healthy relationships are meant to look like,” says Tony Morales, Empower Site Coordinator Yolo ASSETs, Woodland High School.
Teenage romantic relationships can be incredibly complicated. Having a relationship during those difficult years often requires more maturity than most teenagers have developed. These relationships can have many communication and jealousy issues and can be further complicated by social media pressures.
“A lot of students don’t know that violence comes in many forms and is not limited to physical abuse, but includes emotional and verbal abuse as well,” Morales said. “It stems from the lack of ongoing conversations. It is essential that young people begin to learn the skills necessary to create and maintain healthy relationships. These skills include how to manage feelings and how to communicate in a healthy way.
In an effort to educate local teens, provide them with a safe space, and equip them with healthy relationship skills, Empower Yolo’s ASSET (After School Safety and Enrichment for Teens) program is running a month-long TDVAM campaign in Woodland High School.
The campaign will include weekly workshops and a fun month-long healthy relationship meme contest. The series of workshop topics will include: what is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month; what teen dating violence looks like; in their place: teens and dating violence; and healthy relationships. Resources where students can get help will be provided at each workshop.
New this year, ASSET will use the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence’s In Their Shoes: Teens and Dating Violence curriculum to give students a deeper look at teen dating violence. “Through this program, students will be able to see the different ways that teen dating violence can manifest in different relationships. The ASSETs team is confident that with this program we will be able to further educate students on this topic,” says Fabian Iglesias, Director of Youth Programs, ASSETs Program Manager, Woodland High School.
Throughout the year, ASSETs provides prevention education through its program. Even during online school during the pandemic, the ASSETs team provided prevention education to students by making 12 prevention education presentations to 90 students from July to December 2021. During the school year underway, the program engages even more students. “Every Thursday, the ASSETs team hosts weekly Our Strength meetings, a prevention education program dedicated to raising awareness of various issues that affect Woodland teens, such as bullying, gang violence, mental health and poverty levels,” says Morales.
ASSETs also provides student resources and services. “ASSETS works hard to provide programs that address teen dating violence throughout the year. Our goal is to prevent the students we serve and the community from being victims of dating violence. by showing our teens the warning signs of abuse. In situations where students experience dating violence, we refer them to various internal partners and services. At Empower Yolo, we refer students to the Counseling Service which provides free advice, to the legal department which helps with restraining orders, as well as a range of other services,” says Iglesias.
Other local TDVAM campaigns will be led by Empower Youth at Davis High School and Emerson Junior High School. Empower Youth is a community service club run by local teens that supports Empower Yolo and children at Empower Yolo’s shelter.
“Many young people are still learning what a healthy relationship looks like to them and what they feel comfortable with. It’s important to teach teens what unhealthy behavior is in relationships because they can’t see it for themselves or realize something is wrong,” said Zach Agnew, member and treasurer of Empower Youth DHS. Awareness efforts are also underway at the college.
“Talking about teen dating violence early on is important to prevent unhealthy behaviors in adulthood. Teens need to know from an early age how to be treated and how to treat their partner in a relationship with love and respect,” says Isabel Churchward, member and president of Empower Youth Emerson.
The community can help support our local teens in the following ways: 1) donate to Empower Yolo’s prevention education program to help us reach more teens at: empoweryolo.org; 2) Wear Orange on Tuesday, February 8 in support of Wear Orange Day to raise awareness about teen dating abuse; take a selfie and tag Empower Yolo on Facebook @empoweryolo, Instagram and Twitter @empower_yolo; 3) become a sponsor of TDVAM next year to help us engage the community and reach more young people; 4) Follow ASSET’s month-long awareness campaign and meme contest to show your support for TDVAM and healthy relationships. Follow their efforts on social media and join the Empower Yolo mailing list at empoweryolo.org.
The ASSETs program is also always looking for the community to become more involved with adolescents. They invite community members to become club advisors or to help with their leadership, academic and enrichment programs. If you would like to know more about involvement, please contact Fabian Iglesias at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Woodland Presbyterian Church for sponsoring TDVAM this year and supporting Empower Yolo’s prevention education program. We appreciate their support.
Join Empower Yolo this month to raise awareness in our community about teen dating abuse and support our teens in healthy relationships. For questions about teen dating violence, contact: email@example.com. For more information or to support Empower Yolo’s prevention education program, visit: empoweryolo.org.
— Natalia Baltazar is Empower Yolo’s Director of Development and Community Relations.