February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month

Most teenagers do not experience physical aggression when they date. However, for some teens, abuse is a very real part of dating relationships. (Teen Dating Violence: A Closer Look at Adolescent Romantic Relationships, National Institute of Justice, 2008)

The Department of Justice's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) presents the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)'s definition of dating violence to be: "violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim and where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:

  • The length of the relationship
  • The type of relationship
  • The frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship."

Since 2004, Congress has designated the first full week in February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week. However, this year, the Justice Department worked with the Senate to designate the entire month of February as National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. As noted by Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli, "The department will continue to raise awareness regarding teen dating violence, and will use federal resources to assist schools and communities in stopping such violence." (Associate Attorney General Perrelli, Senators Announce Passage of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month Resolution, U.S. Department of Justice Press Release, January 28, 2010)

The designation of National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month provides parity to the three other crimes included in VAWA, which was signed into law by President Clinton 15 years ago. Each of the other crimes (sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking) has an existing designated month for public education and awareness activities. This is another installment in the department's year-long effort to raise public awareness; build stronger coalitions among federal, state, local, and tribal communities; and redouble efforts to end domestic and teen dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking for men, women, and children across the country.

The unanimously approved Senate Resolution (PDF, 4 pages) establishing National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month calls on communities to "empower teens to develop healthier relationships" and promote programs and activities to draw attention to the issue that puts teen victims at risk for "substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior, suicide, and adult revictimization." It calls for awareness among parents and children of community events on the issue and notes that abuse can keep victims from attending school and result in psychological problems later in life. (New Focus on Teen Dating Violence, U.S. Senator Mike Crapo Press Release, January 28, 2010)

To help bring greater awareness to the dangers and consequences of teen dating violence, the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) has prepared an online compilation of publications and other related resources on this topic. For an original version of this article and links to critical resources, go to http://www.ncjrs.gov/teendatingviolence/.