February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and 43 percent of college women who are dating have experienced violent and abusive dating behavior, according to Love is Respect, a project by the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Dating violence can take the form of stalking or physical, sexual or psychological violence, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
This year’s theme for TDVAM is “Talk About It,” which highlights the prevalence of dating violence and encourages people to have meaningful conversations about healthy relationships and abusive behaviors.
Students must continue discussing dating violence beyond TDVAM so they know what warning signs to be cautious of when dating, like isolation from loved ones or physical harm from their partners. As online dating becomes increasingly popular, these conversations are especially important because they teach students how abusive behaviors manifest virtually, like through deception and doxxing.
TDVAM’s “Talk About It” theme encourages people to discuss dating violence more often with peers. Sharing experiences validates what victims have experienced and helps them feel supported, while showing others relationship red flags and ways to leave abusive relationships.
“I think a lot of people suffer in silence,” said Tara Tripp, a criminal justice professor. “Acknowledging this creates awareness since many people don’t realize when they’re being victimized as it becomes part of their life and everyday occurrences.”
Many instances of dating violence become normalized in our lives through negative portrayals of relationships in the media. For example, 90 percent of the 50 most popular children’s TV shows portray some form of relationship violence, according to Media Smarts, a not-for-profit charitable organization for digital and media literacy.
Viewers may internalize or copy the violent relationship behaviors they see in the media if that’s the only dating representation they’ve seen. Having conversations about dating violence by illuminating how common it is and why people may struggle to acknowledge negative dating experiences can help people evaluate any internalized beliefs relating to dating violence.
Only 47 percent of domestic violence cases are reported, which may result from difficulty identifying abuse, threats from abusers or fear of not being believed, according to New HOPE, an organization providing services to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Discussing what’s healthy in relationships can assist victims in leaving dangerous situations and connect them with resources for support by bringing awareness to why their situations are abusive.
Dating violence also takes different forms depending on factors like race and sexuality, so having frequent conversations acknowledges and validates individuals’ unique experiences.
“In these conversations of what is healthy dating and what is a healthy relationship we also have to consider race, culture and gender,” Tripp said. “We are still defined by gender roles, racial identity and sexual identity in our society. People come to the table with different ideas culturally and religiously. There’s not going to be one example that will fit everybody.”
People of color are more likely to experience dating violence, with more than 45 percent of Black women and more than 40 percent of Black men encountering some form of relationship violence in their lifetimes, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are also disproportionately victims of dating violence, with nearly 44 percent of lesbians, 26 percent of gay men, 61 percent of bisexual women and 37 percent of bisexual men experiencing some form of relationship abuse, according to 2Date4Love, a platform on love and relationships.
Love is Respect’s action guide includes resources that provide support for the LGBTQ+ and marginalized communities, like the LGBT National Help Center, Brown Boi Project, Scarleteen and The Trevor Project. They also offer resources for people of color, like Heart and StrongHearts Native Hotline.
As dating apps gain popularity, dating violence has become especially prevalent among college students, with more than 91 percent of students using them, according to a survey by Global Dating Insights.
“I’ve downloaded dating apps because everyone else had it when entering college,” said Hannah Jay, a sophomore journalism major.
It’s crucial to have conversations about navigating dating apps safely to prevent dating violence from occurring. These discussions should highlight the risks associated with dating apps, like deception and the publishing of private information.
“Technology definitely presents an element of connectivity or perceived availability and monitoring,” said Liz Zadnik, the associate director at the Wellness Resource Center.
There’s an element of learning and growing in college, which comes with experimenting, making students more susceptible to violence, Zadnik added. College introduces people to more freedom and a larger community, increasing the likelihood of violence and risk.
The WRC offers programs for dating, domestic and interpersonal violence prevention, like “Beyond Yes and No: Building a Culture of Consent,” a workshop that discusses setting boundaries and working towards a culture of consent.
Instead of only having conversations on dating violence during TDVAM, students must discuss unhealthy dating behaviors year round to help lessen violence in relationships and keep people safe, especially with the additional risks from using dating apps.