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

  • 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.


Over the past several weeks as entertainment news has been filled with the story of Chris Brown and Rhianna’s domestic drama, there have been reports of the reactions to the incident from other celebrities. It seemed that lots of well-known musicians, actors, actresses, and such didn’t want to take a stand. That seemed a little odd to me. Isn’t it obvious that Chris Brown acted badly by basically beating up Rhianna? Wouldn’t they want to stand up for “right?”

Celebrities not wanting to take a stand is problematic, but I guess they are celebrities and don’t want to get mixed up in the story. But, then again, they aren’t just celebrities, in many cases they are role models for teens (and others) and as such could have an impact on how this story is perceived and understood by others. As a teen librarian and advocate I do wish that celebrity role models would stand up and speak out against unacceptable behavior.

This has come more to my mind as I’ve been reading about teens and what they have to say about the incident. Read More →

“Hiding the bruises and the hurt Paul inflicts on her is harder than getting straight A’s. But Paul’s happiness soon becomes more important to Johanna than her own. More important than her relationship with her parents and friends. More important than her grades, her safety, and her future.”-Things Change by Patrick Jones (Walker & Company, 2004)

Sound like anyone you may know?

Read More →

During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #28.

Teen dating violence is one of the issues explored through stage performance by the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte. The actors visit a battered women’s shelter before beginning rehearsals as part of their research to understand some of the issues that surround dating violence.

I had the opportunity to interview the actors and the Director of Domestic Violence Services at United Family Services. The actors talked about their experiences with performing, and the domestic violence director talked about teen dating violence in general. I will post the podcasts on the YALSA podcast page ASAP to share with you the conversation.

Podcasts are social networking tools that can be used to open up dialogues and comments for the purposes of informing and learning from one another. While teens would still be able to listen to podcasts even if DOPA is passed, they might miss out on the opportunity of playing a role in the dialogue at the public or school library. When it comes to raising awareness of issues, that’s not a tool we should have to lose.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki

Next month, many community organizations will have educational programs, ceremonies, and other outreach efforts to observe domestic violence (dv). While Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention week isn’t until February, there will be many awareness programs for teens next month experiencing dv. Finding out what a local dv organization is doing is a good fit for the ‘Get Active at Your Library’ theme for Teen Read Week.

At my library, a production of ‘Twist and Shout’ is performed by teen actors who tour the local schools to put on a gritty play on dating violence and then have a conversation with the student viewers along with representatives from a dv organization.

There is a great article and bibliography written this month by Tom Reynolds of Sno-Isle Regional Library in Washington available on NoveList, entitled, “Inexcusable: Rape and Dating Violence in Teen Fiction”

I had a program last year for teens where we watched the movie Speak, and then participated in a teen led discussion in partnership with a local sexual assault organization. Males and females alike, benefitted and the teens were phenomenal in guiding the talk afterward.

Wired for Youth has a bibliography and webliography for ‘Teens, Dating, and Emotional and Physical Abuse.’ They also participated in the Choose Respect Campaign launched by the CDC and National Center for Injury Prevention and Control for teens to create a music video on healthy relationships.

Check out NY’s State Office for the Prevention of DV Teen Dating Violence Media Project last year.

Share your stories of working with organizations to bring awareness to domestic violence.

Posted by Kelly Czarnecki