Valentine’s Day is big business; between the candy and flower sales and Hamilton-themed cards, V-Day spending nationwide may top $13 billion. Libraries cater to their patrons with Valentines-themed programs including concerts, crafts and even anti-Valentine’s parties.
Rarely seen in public is anything calling attention to dating’s darker side, though February is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. According to a 2013 CDC survey, 1 in 10 teens reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past 12 months; additionally 1 in 10 reported being kissed, touched, or physically forced into sexual intercourse against their will by someone they were dating.
During meetings and training, like the recent in-service at my library, staff may discuss how to handle many different difficult situations. Abusive romantic relationships should be a part of the discussion. What warning signs can library staff look out for?
Here are a few types of dating violence from loveisrespect.org:
- Physical: scratching, punching, throwing things, pushing and pulling
- Emotional/Verbal: put-downs, yelling, blaming, threatening
- Sexual: unwanted touching, pressuring, sexual insults
- Financial: preventing from going to work, on-the-job harassment, giving presents with strings attached
- Digital: pressure to send explicit messages, stealing passwords
- Stalking: showing up unannounced, sending unwanted messages
Here are a few behaviors that victims of dating violence may exhibit:
- Depression and anxiety
- Tobacco, drug and alcohol use
- Antisocial behaviors
- Thoughts about suicide
Teen staff can foster supportive library spaces, and make patrons aware that abuse is not tolerated. We can offer programs and materials on the differences between healthy and unhealthy dating relationships. If we witness abuse, we can report it to the police. If we encounter someone who may need help, we can refer them to local family services, as well as national hotlines such as RAINN.
For more information about Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape check out the book list on The Hub.