#RESPECTtoo and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

The Center for Disease Control notes that “Intimate Partner Violence is a serious and preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans.” This kind of violence occurs between partners of all ages and between heterosexual or same sex couples. The #MeToo movement which has spread via social and other media since last October has brought more important  attention to the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, particularly in workplace settings.

I started RESPECT with the support of a wide array of community organizations and donors in January of 2000 when we started providing educational theatre to prevent teen dating violence. We continue to provide programming from middle school through college related to stalking, consent, dating violence and sexual harassment. We continue to work with a wide variety of partners to teach students and their families the definition of Intimate Partner Violence and Teen Dating Violence as well as the skills needed to develop healthy relationship skills and to protect their own physical and emotional boundaries. We continue to interact and dialogue with students about the ways in which they can help their friends who are in unsafe relationships. We have led community awareness campaigns to support resources and awareness. We continue to share resources across our state to provide students, families and professionals to give them information and support.

RESPECT participants frequently disclose assault and rape and are connected to resources for help. A mother told me about her daughter who was abused in a relationship and said “only because of her participation in your program did she know what to do and how to get herself out and to help.” One high school audience member recently invited RESPECT to present to her sorority sisters because she wanted to share the information and impact that RESPECT had in her life when she was in high school.

As February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, we remind our friends and community partners that “#RESPECTToo” continues to direct our efforts to provide resources, information and support to those impacted by Intimate Partner Violence.