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February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

two teens talking

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month (TDVAM) brings to focus the issue of teen dating violence and the need to educate our American Indian and Alaska Native youth about healthy relationships and raise awareness within the care providers such as health centers, schools, and families. TDVAM provides communities with an opportunity to work together to prevent the cycle of violence in abusive relationships.

Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional, or verbal abuse from a dating partner. American Indian and Alaska Native young women are survivors of dating violence or will experience dating violence at some point in their lives. Limited or non-existent information is available on this health issue in adolescent American Indian and Alaska Native females. A 1992 Minnesota youth study found that 92% of American Indian girls who reported having sexual intercourse have been forced against their will to have sex. In addition, 62% of those girls reported to have been pregnant by the 12th grade. The problem is addressed after it occurs and not prevented before it happens.

Tribal and urban Indian health programs have been innovative and have integrated teen dating violence in their workshops from work stemming from the Indian Health Service (IHS) and Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Domestic Violence project. The United American Indian Involvement (Los Angeles, CA) is doing outstanding prevention work with teens in their youth-based programs. They hold annual winter camps for young men and women. These four day camps are held separately for 30 teens ranging in age from 14-18. The workshops include topics on teen dating violence, substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide prevention. Upcoming camps are scheduled for February and March 2010. For more information, contact Al Garcia, MSW by email at or telephone (213) 202-3970. The website for United American Indian Involvement is Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving .

There are limited resources available for teen dating prevention among American Indian and Alaska Native females. The Native American Women's Health Education Resource Center has developed the Teen Dating Curriculum for girls. For more information, contact Charon Asetoyer at the Center at (605) 487-7072 or visit Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving .

Other emerging issues for teens are harassment through cellular phones and texting. More information on the awareness month can be found at the Teen Dating Violence Prevention Project at Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving . Other noteworthy teen based dating violence campaigns are Choose Respect Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  and Start Strong Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving . The Family Violence Prevention Fund has produced posters and awareness material on violence prevention for American Indian and Alaska Native adults and teens. Family Violence Prevention Fund resource materials can be found at Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving .

Submitted by Michelle Begay, Public Health Analyst, IHS Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative