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Preventing Teen Dating Violence

February 2007 article

National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Week is February 5 – 9, 2007, and it is the perfect time for you to help teach teen ways to achieve and maintain positive relationships. Dating violence and abuse affects one in three U.S. teens ("Dating Violence Education: Prevention and Early Intervention Strategies," 2002, in Preventing Violence in Relationships: Interventions Across the Life Span). This abuse isn't just hitting; it's yelling, threatening, name calling, and extreme possessiveness. Dating violence doesn't just happen to women; it occurs against men and in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships.
 
Community Works instructors can use Community Works Session 14: Dating Violence: Recognize and Prevent (PDF), to further teens' knowledge of dating violence and methods of prevention. The session includes a dating role-play scenario, information about the cycle of violence that can happen in relationships, preventing and stopping dating violence, and where to find help if someone is in an abusive relationship.
 
Instructors can also integrate sexual assault prevention messages into the dating violence awareness lesson. Sexual assault is prevalent in today's society: "One in six American women are victims of sexual assault, and one in 33 men." Community Works Session 15: Sexual Assault: Date Rape and Acquaintance Rape (PDF) can help teach students about peer pressure, facts about sexual assault, and what to do if someone is victimized by sexual assault or rape.
 
After completing these sessions, instructors can engage students in a dating violence/sexual assault awareness and prevention service-learning project. Some projects that other students have completed are
 

  • Creating and distributing booklets that contain contact information for rape crisis centers and domestic abuse shelters in their communities
  • Conducting a clothing and hygienic product drive at school, and donating all goods to a local domestic violence shelter
  • Writing a skit about how to be a good date, and performing it for other students or youth groups
  • Organizing a "Take Back the Night" rally and march to raise awareness and speak out against violence that many people (particularly women) experience when walking alone at night
     

Please remember that the topics of dating violence and sexual assault can elicit strong emotional responses from teens. Use community resource people during these lessons in case students disclose information about victimization. A rape crisis counselor, domestic violence shelter employee, or sexual assault nurse examiner would be helpful during your lesson.

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