February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  Yes, we have a whole month dedicated to public education to help us better understand the roots of domestic violence and that it is not just occurring in adult relationships.

For several years ICADV was able to host a contest among Illinois high schools meant to engage teenagers in learning about and educating each other about healthy relationships.  The challenge was for a group of up to four students plus and an adult sponsor (coach, counselor, teacher) to create a 30 second video highlighting positive messages about healthy relationships and what to do if you saw or heard unhealthy behavior between peers.  The results were amazing. The talent and technical knowledge were creative, educational and engaging.  Often times with just a cell phone, we were presented with public services announcements that were both professional and appropriate.

Loveisrespect.org is an organization that has spent the past 13 years developing outreach materials, apps, posters, curriculum and other medium as a resource to empower youth and end dating abuse. The website has all types of resources for use by those who are being abused, those who know of someone being abused and those who may be using abusive tactics.

It is unfortunate that our advocates tell us that the prevention and education programs they are able to utilize must be presented to younger people. However, this is where we must start if we are going to “Break the Cycle” of generational use of domestic violence in relationships.  If domestic violence is mostly a learned behavior, then teaching healthy interpersonal relationship behaviors must start when people have the best chance to learn respectful interactions.

What is consent? Learning to communicate. Trust. Setting Boundaries. Sex and Healthy Relationships materials are all available at www.loveisrespect.org. Do you know a teen that could use some of this information? Are you a teen who could use some of this information?

Another resource that I have read that was developed for use with high school and college students is “In a Relationship” by Aaron Boe.  This book is an easy read that includes examples of responses as well as spaces for developing personal responses that help create solutions by the reader.

Coaching Boys into Men, a project created and supported by Futures Without Violence has a website https://www.coachescorner.org/ that provides tools for coaches that work with males of all ages in sports.  Yet again another great example of how to influence young people learning to be respectful with each other and work toward a future reducing domestic violence.

We would love to have the resources to develop further efforts to engage youth. This is our next generation of people who can improve our intervention efforts and create prevention through active educational methods.  February has an extra day this year for us all to do more!