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Troy L. Wheeler

Troy L. Wheeler

 

 

Strategy: Teaching Teens To Prevent Dating Violence

Strategy Educating teens about abusive relationships helps prevent teen dating violence. Community Problem Addressed In dating situations, youth test . . .

Strategy

Educating teens about abusive relationships helps prevent teen dating violence.

Community Problem Addressed

In dating situations, youth test their concepts of masculinity, femininity, respect, mutuality, and communication. Dating relationships reinforce unhealthy gender stereotypes unless they are based on clear communication, trust, and nonviolent ways of settling conflict. In the 1999 study Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, more than half of all rape victims were under 18 at the time of the first rape. Many victims of domestic violence, too, are young women. Experts believe that violence between dating teens is severely underreported. This strategy trains youth to prevent dating violence.

Key Components

This strategy involves starting programs that help teens of both sexes prevent dating violence; address relationship issues through school-based support groups for victims; provide intervention and counseling groups for offenders; train school and health care personnel so that they recognize signs of dating violence; and develop a curriculum that teaches teens how to recognize the signs of abusive behavior, get help, or help a friend in need. Many programs also create hotlines through which teens can report abuse or seek assistance.

Key Partnerships

Usually operated through a partnership with a group that assists victims of domestic violence or an agency that serves youth, the school-based programs rely on trained youth who counsel peers, operate hotlines, and deliver curriculum lessons in the classroom. Together with community-based agencies, the schools publicize services available to victims and batterers.

Potential Obstacles

Because of fear or embarrassment, many students are reluctant to seek help through counseling and hotline services. The curriculum and supporting materials can inform them about available services and encourage them to approach teachers, peers, or community agencies for help.  School administrators, reluctant to get involved in relationship issues, may resist using the curriculum and other services within the school. Program proponents should emphasize the curriculum's value in combating violence among students.

Examples of Success and Results

The Dating Violence Intervention Project (DVIP) grew out of a partnership between a treatment program for batterers and a shelter for victims. Established in 1986, the Boston-area program aims to "prevent boys and girls from learning to accept violence in their earliest relationships." DVIP programs include 'awareness weeks,' assemblies and theater performances built around the theme of respect; three-session courses in which former victims and abusers train students to identify abusive behaviors, engage in respectful communication, and manage conflict; special class sessions; performances in which youth dramatize issues of violence and gender stereotypes; 24-hour hotline and counseling services; an eight-session course that explores the causes of dating violence and trains youth as prevention advocates; and training for school staff so that they can recognize signs of dating violence among students. Male students who threaten or abuse a female peer must participate in weekly counseling groups.

Student participants report that the program taught them the characteristics of abusive relationships and how to get out of abusive relationships. Twenty Massachusetts towns, including Salem [population 38,091], have developed programs modeled after DVIP, which trained police officers and school officials from 50 towns. The program also trained 50 peer leaders in 1993. In 1994, the Governor's Commission on Domestic Violence endorsed a plan to bring DVIP-inspired initiatives to additional communities through intervention programs for batterers, training for school staff, and inclusion of dating violence prevention workshops in conferences sponsored by the state's education department.  The curriculum has also been used in Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

The Southern California Coalition for Battered Women offers Skills for Violence-Free Relationships, an education program for use with students ages 13 to 18. Adapted for use by school personnel, shelter workers, and youth advocates, the curriculum incorporates lessons and lectures, role playing, and storytelling. A complimentary teachers' guide is available through the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

The Williston, North Dakota, Network Against Teenage Violence developed the curriculum When Love Really Hurts: Dating Violence Curriculum.  Established in cooperation with the community's family crisis shelter, the four-session text is designed for incorporation into social studies, health, history, or psychology classes. A list of resources that help victims supplements the text.

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