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February 2019 Blog Post 2

In this age of technology and instant news, it seems that reports of sexual assault or domestic violence offences committed by celebrities are a daily occurrence. The reality is that violence occurs across our nation every single day. Violence knows no limits. While it might be a knee-jerk response to ignore or avoid these “taboo” topics, they offer a vital teachable moment for the teens we interact with. Instead of thinking “that has nothing to do with me” or “it was probably an over exaggeration”, these situations can be used start discussion and facilitate learning.

Many of the images of relationships that teens are surrounded with, whether it is television and movies or books and music, romanticize characteristics of relationships that are unsafe or abusive. In my work as an adolescent advocate, I often use these images and representations in my conversations. Referring to these fictional characters can provide a reference point that is not personal or intimidating. In the Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) toolkit, there are many discussion starters and activity ideas that provide an interactive way to challenge unsafe relationship messages and representations and open up an opportunity for conversations about healthy and safe connections with others.

So next time you are sitting down watching an episode of a TV show or a movie together, pause it partially through and talk about what is happening. What actions have the characters taken that are healthy and safe? What behaviors are warning signs that things are not so great? What things are unsafe or unhealthy? Are characters respectful of boundaries? Are there ever conversations about consent? What messages are being shared about relationships that are totally wrong or inappropriate?

I ask you to join Prevail in recognition of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM). This February, look for our TDVAM toolkit (available on Prevail’s website at https://prevailinc.com/index.php/prevail-special-events/awareness-month-activities/teen-dating-violence-awareness-month), social media posts, and follow-ups to this article. Each of us has the opportunity to encourage and empower teens to create healthy connections with others. Please consider how you can support Prevail’s mission of eliminating violence from our community by promoting healthy relationships. Look for part 3 of this series next week for information about helping teens understand consent.

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