On Monday, February 13, 2017, teens are invited to join a national conversation about teen dating violence. According to a 2016 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “[a]mong high school students who dated, 21% of females and 10% of males experienced physical and/ or sexual dating violence.” The same study also concluded that “[a]mong adult victims of rape, physical violence, and/ or stalking by an intimate partner, 22% of women and 15% of men first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.” As teen library staff, have an opportunity to raise awareness about teen dating violence by helping teens advocate for their loved ones, friends, and themselves.

Given the amazing selection of books and resources that have been published for teens about dating violence (DV), we can bring awareness in many different ways. One method is to create a display that is going to invoke a powerful statement that needs to be said. For the month of February, my library posted this in our outside display case:

With these displays, we cab develop programming that can initiate a dialogue with teens about DV. If we have yet to connect with community groups and resources that can help us deliver our services, Teen DV month is a great place to start.

During Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, the teens at my library will discuss Jennifer Shaw Wolf’s Breaking Beautiful and a representative from Peace Over Violence will be there to answer any questions about teen DV. What I want to stress about these kinds of programs as that we need to declare that whatever happens at this event stays at this event. Victims of abuse need to know that the Library is a safe place so, by creating a circle of trust, we are actually stating we are here to help them. By opening up this conversation with our communities, it is incredibly helpful to invite an expert to answer the questions we don’t know or are qualified to answer.

Another program we are offering young women and members of the LGBTQI2-S community is a free self-defense workshop. Keep in mind that DV doesn’t just apply to females, but applies to males and the LGBTQI2-S community as well so we to understand that abuse doesn’t not discriminate. What’s unique about these self-defense workshops is that they discuss, at length, a variety of ways teens can defend themselves from their abusers or attackers. By working with organizations that focus on domestic/dating violence, they can provide insightful programs that include not just physical techniques, but steps teens can take to fend off an assailant without physical altercations.  More importantly, these classes empower teens to understand they have every right to protect themselves and that their abuse is NOT their fault. By creating these connections, teens who may be abused, or witnessed abuse, can get help from these organizations and teens can get guidance when it comes to other issues such as consent, building healthy relationships, creating boundaries, and develop better communication skills.

With our community partners, there are national resources that we can connect with to develop our program and service frameworks. One valuable resource that we can utilize is LoveisRespect.org.  This organization provides a wealth of information for teen library staff including tool kits, statistics, tips, and handouts we can provide teens. In fact, there are downloadable materials we can print which include: palm cards, bookmarks, posters and handouts. The CDC also provides a fact sheet and LoveisRespect.org partnered with another ThatsNotCool.com that focuses on teen dating violence online . This particular website provides teens with an opportunity to add their voice by standing up against domestic violence online. Just like cyberbullying, domestic violence, online, does exist and is just as detrimental as physical abuse.  Here are some statistics from the Urban Institute in regards to digital dating violence:

  • 1 in 4 teens is harassed or abused through technology
  • 52% of teens who experience digital abuse are also physically abused
  • Teens who are physically or sexually abused have 6 times the risk for pregnancy and are twice as likely to contract STIs
  • 1 in 10 high school students has been purposefully hit, slapped, or physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Only 9% of abused teens seek help, and rarely from a parent or teacher

As teen library staff, we need to be recognize that dating violence can lead to significant mental health challenges that teens may face in the future.  we need to educate ourselves when it comes to warning signs of abuse. By having the courage and knowledge to initiate these difficult conversations, we are sending a message to our teen community that the library is here to serve them with everything and anything. However, we need all the help we can get so rely on partners and community organizations to help us facilitate these services. As YALSA’s Three Year Organizational Plan states, “teens need libraries and library staff in a way they may never have needed them before. Today’s adolescents face an expanding array of social issues that place them at physical and psychological risk, and libraries can help. Libraries can contribute to solving and alleviating the issues and problems that negatively impact teens, and can put more teens on the path to a successful and fulfilling life.”

If you are planning any programs or services about Teen Dating Violence Awareness, share your ideas in the comments below!

About Deborah Takahashi

Deborah Takahashi is a Senior Librarian for the Monterey Park Bruggemeyer Library. Deborah has been working with teens and children for seventeen years and loves every minute. Deborah is also the author of "Serving Teens with Mental Illness at the Library: A Practical Guide."

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