February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and with that the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (NRCDV) and VAWnet have made a special collection of resources with information about preventing and responding to teen dating violence. VAWnet, is run by the NRCDV and is an “online network that focuses on violence against women and other forms of gender-based violence.”

In 2014, Mary Kay released a study with LOVEISRESPECT that shows teens stay in abusive relationships far longer than they should. The study surveyed 500 teens and it showed that “57% percent waited six months or more before seeking any help while 40% hadn’t talked to anyone about abusive behavior in their relationship.” A study in 2011, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control found that “1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men who have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner first experienced some form of intimate partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.” These two statistics alone are staggering, and the special collection by the NRCDV and VAWnet is a great resource for librarians, and all educators to utilize all year.

In the special collection, you will find an emphasis on “collaborative and multi-level approaches to the prevention of and response to teen dating violence (TDV).” The collection has organized resources by different organizations on TDV and “responses by different populations.” Below is one such resource, an infographic, in the collection provided by One Love, a non-profit started by the mother of Yeardley Love, a victim of dating violence that brings awareness about dating violence.

The collection ranges from information on “Pregnancy Prevention Programs” with a video from Futures Without Violence about a teen getting a pregnancy test, and more to “Bystanders,” which has information about The Red Flag Campaign and information about engaging bystanders to help prevent sexual violence. There is even a vast list of hotlines, online helplines, and organizations–national and statewide.

Along with using and sharing the online special collection, there is still more libraries can do to bring TDV to the forefront. Libraries can hold informative programs and information tables. They can make displays, post flyers, and be there for teens, or any customer, that approaches them with an issue. As the collection states: “being an active bystander means doing something to stop dating abuse.”

One interesting resource the collection has is a “Teen Action Toolkit: Building a Youth-led Response to Teen Victimization.” This toolkit was published by the Community Oriented Policing Services and the National Center for Victims of Crime. The toolkit provides information on implementing the Teen Action Partnership (TAP) for the Teen Victims program. “TAP for Teen Victims is a program that encourages youth leaders to change their communities’ response to teenage victims of crime, while building the resilience of the youth participants.” The toolkit is very in-depth and could be a great way to engage teens in the community in a group discussion style program. It would even be a great program to implement for teens that need community service for school, as they would be doing a great service to the community in bringing assistance and awareness about TDV.

Along with digital tools, it is important to look into services offered in your community that can help with TDV. In my county, we have LoveSpeaksOut. LoveSpeaksOut works to engage and educate teens about speaking out against TDV and to have more positive relationships. My library branch has had a representative come to the library and set up a resource table. It is not only informative, but engaging as they have games and prizes, but also keeps teens learning about the concerns of TDV and how to speak out against TDV. LoveSpeaksOut always leaves us with information packets and bookmarks that we display in the teen area. They also have great events in the Charlotte area that we advertise for teens in their library space.

This February, I encourage all library staff and educators who work with teens to start a discussion about TDV.

About Maeve Dodds

Maeve is a Teen Lead Librarian for Charlotte Mecklenburg County, University City Branch, in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has worked in adult and children services, and was previously an elementary school media specialist. She likes reading in her hammock and trying new foods.

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