What Can We Do to Help?
We believe all teens should feel safe in their relationships and experience the characteristics of healthy relationships including; respect, safety, support, individuality, fairness, equality, acceptance, honesty, and trust. We all can play an active and important role in addressing and preventing teen dating violence.
It is important to raise awareness about teen dating violence as a very prevalent issue facing teenagers in every community across the United States. Preventing and addressing teen dating violence requires partnerships between schools, public agencies, and community-based groups. It is critical that we provide opportunities for teens to develop connections to supportive adults: parents, teachers, counselors, coaches, older youth in our communities.
Communities can take action to raise awareness. Campaigns such as One Billion Rising are focused on how we can come together to end violence.
Communities and schools can also raise awareness and provide training for adults who work with teens. In Their Shoes: Teens and Dating Violence is a revolutionary training tool that helps participants learn what dating is like for today’s teens by becoming a teen character, making choices about their relationship and seeing the results. This tool is available from the Families Thrive lending library.
Kidsdata.org provides the following suggestions for communities:
Ensuring adequate screening among child welfare agencies, health care providers, schools, and other organizations to detect intimate partner violence and children exposed to such violence; screening for teen dating violence can be incorporated into efforts to detect other high-risk behaviors, such as bullying, delinquency, and substance use (1, 2, 4, 5)
Promoting and supporting state- and county-level interagency and cross-system collaboration to ensure access to appropriate services for teens experiencing dating violence, as well as for younger children exposed to violence; community responses should be comprehensive and coordinated, including child welfare services, law enforcement, domestic violence service providers, courts, schools, and teen-serving organizations (1, 2, 6)
School interventions can focus on creating a positive school environment. Schools also play an important role in helping teenagers learn about healthy relationships.
Kidsdata.org suggests the following strategies for schools:
Supporting evidence-based, school-wide programs for middle and high school students to improve knowledge, attitudes, and norms regarding dating violence, and to help youth develop the skills to build healthy relationships; such programs should be culturally appropriate and address how to recognize and respond to violence (4, 5)
Setting school policies that foster a safe, supportive environment and promote student engagement in school, as positive school environments and student connectedness to school are linked to lower levels of violence (5, 6)
In Contra Costa County, schools can contact Stand! for Families Free of Violence to learn more about programs and other resources to promote healthy relationships.
We can all take an active role in modeling healthy behaviors. When we observe signs of dating violence, we can respond in ways that provide support. If we see abusive or controlling behaviors, depending upon the situation, we can either make it clear the behavior is unacceptable or connect with other resources or organizations for support.
Adults can support youth conversations about healthy relationships. For conversational questions to get you started, download the Families Thrive Teen Dating Violence brief.
We can also become a mentor for kids and work to create a safe and violence-free environment by joining groups or organizations that support teens and work to reduce violence.
As an adult in the life of a teen, it is important to convey that you are there for them and they can come to you for help. Keep in mind, how we respond to teens around challenging issues, can creates barriers for our communication or can facilitate sharing. Teens have shared that when parents or adults simply say “leave your boyfriend or girlfriend” that they are less likely to go to them to share what is happening. At the same time, they want us to take their relationships and their experiences seriously.
Here are some specific things we can do to support teens:
Help teens understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Be a positive role model.
Provide undivided attention and listen when teens talk to us.
Maintain an open environment or an “open door” policy.
Teach respectful and healthy communication skills.
Teach negotiation and compromise.
Be a resource for teens.
Know about all the resources available in your community that support teens.
Ensure that teens know it is okay to come to us when they need help.
Work to engage other supportive adults in our community.
Pay attention to and support policy change that would work to end teen dating violence.
Understand the warning signs of someone being abused and someone who is abusive.
Remind teens that they have the right to say “no” and must respect the rights of others.
Reinforce that dating should be fun and stress-free and that violence of any kind is never acceptable.
Avoid analyzing, interruptions, lecturing, or accusations.
Together we can prevent teen dating violence.
Rosewater, A., & Moore, K. (2010). Addressing domestic violence, child safety and well-being: Collaborative strategies for California families. California Leadership Group on Domestic Violence and Child Well-being. Click here to download this resource.
National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. (2012). Report of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence. U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from: http://www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood/task-force-children-exposed-violence. Click here to download the report.
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students. (n.d.). Teen dating violence in the United States: A fact sheet for schools. Retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/oshs/teendatingviolence-factsheet.html. Click here to download the factsheet.
National Institute of Justice. (2014). Prevention and intervention of teen dating violence. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved from: http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/intimate-partner-violence/teen-dating-violence/Pages/prevention-intervention.aspx
Oudekerk, B., et al. (2014). Teen dating violence: How peers can affect risk & protective factors. National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from: http://youth.gov/federal-links/teen-dating-violence-how-peers-can-affect-risk-protective-factors. Click here to download this resource.
Wilkins, N., et al. (2014). Connecting the dots: An overview of the links among multiple forms of violence. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Prevention Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.preventioninstitute.org/component/jlibrary/article/id-356/127.html. Click here to download this resource.