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About Teen Dating Violence: What it is and How to Prevent it

1. Is teen dating violence really a problem?
2. Who is more likely to be a victim of teen dating violence, boys or girls?
3. Is teen dating violence the same as adult intimate partner / domestic violence?
4. What does primary prevention mean in the context of teen dating violence?
5. What is a teacher’s role in preventing teen dating violence?
6. Can you tell me what I should do if I hear or see teen dating violence at my school, or if a student confides
in me that they are a victim of teen dating violence?
7. Where can I learn more about teen dating violence prevention?

 

 

About Teen Dating Violence: What it is and How to Prevent it

1. Is teen dating violence really a problem?
We know that approximately 1 in 10 high school students have experienced physical dating violence in the past year. When you factor in psychological and sexual violence, some studies have found the number to be 1 in 4. Dating violence can have a negative impact on a teen’s emotional and social development and impact what they think is “normal” for dating relationships. It also can lead to depression, medical problems, academic problems, and suicide attempts. Teens have been murdered by current or former dating partners, and these victims are most often female.
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2. Who is more likely to be a victim of teen dating violence, boys or girls?
As you might guess, the answer to this question is not a simple one. Teen dating violence has only been identified as a problem fairly recently, and so the research base is still building. What we do know is that when we ask teens about using specific acts of physical aggression in the context of a conflict with a dating partner, girls report using physical aggression as much as or more than boys. We also know that teens in same sex couples report using physical aggression with their partners.

 

However, there are important things about the context and dynamics of teen dating relationships we do not know at this point. For example, researchers often do not ask about severity of the aggressive act, injuries sustained, reactions to the incident (e.g., fear, thought it was funny), or motive for using aggression (e.g., self-defense, to control the other person). The types of measures often used are fairly basic in their assessment (e.g., results often are scored as yes/no meaning that data from someone who reports using physical aggression with a partner one time are included with data from those reporting using violence more than 20 times). Also, the measures utilized typically have not made important distinctions about particular acts; for example, when a person admits to having kicked their partner, information has typically not been collected to identify whether it was a kick to the leg versus a kick to the head or abdomen. Finally, many researchers do not include or do not report on sexual violence in their measurement of teen dating violence where data usually show that females are more likely to be victimized.

 

In extreme cases, adolescents have been murdered by current or former partners. When we look at statistics on injury or homicide, for those aged 12 and older, we know that females are much more likely to be injured or murdered by a current or former intimate partner than males.
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3. Is teen dating violence the same as adult intimate partner / domestic violence?
There are some similarities between teen dating violence and adult intimate partner violence, but there also are some differences that are important to understand. Developmentally, adolescents are very different from adults. They are going through many physical, emotional, and cognitive changes. Physically, adolescents are going through puberty, which has been associated with more emotionality. We also know that brain development continues into the early 20s, and the part of the brain associated with impulse control and assessing the consequences of behavior is still developing during adolescence and early adulthood.

 

Adolescents also are new to dating, so they do not have experience to inform their choices. Dating relationships can serve as an important context for identity development. Theoretically, violence in a relationship could result in the adolescent thinking it is “normal.” Furthermore, adolescents spend a lot of their time with peers, and peers become an important influence during this time. We know from some studies that if adolescents tell anyone about problems in their dating relationships, they will typically tell a friend. And peers may not always be the best source of information.

Finally, the nature of intimate relationships can differ. In comparison to adult intimate partners, most adolescents are not financially dependent on their partner, usually do not live with one another, and usually do not have children together.

 

In terms of similarities, some adolescents do experience violence in their intimate relationships that involves issues of power and control. These adolescents often are fearful of their dating partner, and they may suffer from serious injuries.
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4. What does primary prevention mean in the context of teen dating violence?
The ultimate goal of primary prevention is to stop dating violence before it starts. Strategies that promote healthy and respectful relationships are vital. During the preteen and teen years, young people are learning about relationships with potential dating partners. This is an ideal time to promote healthy relationships and prevent patterns of dating violence that can last into adulthood. Prevention programs change the attitudes and behaviors linked with dating violence. A number of helpful resources on primary prevention are provided in our new online training, Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention.
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5. What is a teacher’s role in preventing teen dating violence?
Teachers have a lot on their plates these days, and it may seem like more and more responsibilities are being added. A teacher’s job is to teach, which is what they were trained to do. But teaching means more than just teaching kids math, science, language arts and social studies. After all, we want the next generation to be healthy. And in the short term, we know there are academic consequences to dating violence, such as increased absenteeism and decreased achievement.

 

There are many opportunities during the school day to teach teens about healthy, respectful relationships. As a first step, teachers can educate themselves about teen dating violence and can teach students about healthy relationships in their classrooms. Our new online training, Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention, provides information about teen dating violence and also includes a resource center with materials, such as evidence-based curricula, that teachers can use.

 

In addition, schools are communities where teens spend a lot of time. In fact, teachers may see students more than their parents do! And teachers see students in a context that differs from what parents may see. Teachers should realize that they are an important part of that school community. School staff can model healthy, respectful behaviors (we know kids watch what we do and learn from it).

 

Finally, school communities are embedded within our larger communities. Teachers and schools do not have to go it alone! Partnerships with professionals in those larger communities can also make a difference. Consider connecting to and collaborating with rape crisis shelters, domestic violence shelters, and other professionals; they may be able to offer additional programming and intervention services to help your school community.
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6. Can you tell me what I should do if I hear or see teen dating violence at my school, or if a student confides in me that they are a victim of teen dating violence?
a.If you hear or see teen dating violence at your school:

Educators may not know what to do when incidents of dating violence occur in their school. While there are definitive steps you can take once the violence happens, the best course of action is to be prepared.

Hopefully, your school or district has a policy on teen dating violence in place. It may be a separate policy or may be covered in other policies such as those on bullying or sexual harassment, or it may be in the student code of conduct. If you cannot find a policy, here are some suggestions for what to do:
i. Keep in mind that both the victim and the aggressor need help.
ii. Talk with administrators about appropriate courses of action (e.g., disciplinary action, changing a student’s roster, meeting with family members, involving school mental health staff)
iii. Talk with your school counselor, school psychologist, school social worker, or school nurse. They may be able to work with the students directly or may be able to provide referrals for professionals in the community.


b. If a student confides in you that s/he is a victim of teen dating violence:

If a student confides in you, it is best to listen carefully and try to be nonjudgmental. Teachers are trained to teach -- and these skills can help you be a great resource for the student around healthy relationship behaviors as well as academics. But teachers can’t be expected – nor are they trained – to serve as the sole resource for students. Schools also have personnel who have been trained to provide intervention services. Encourage the student to talk with this person. Help make the introduction if necessary.

 

But before this happens, familiarize yourself with your school policy and available resources. Consider those available both inside the school (e.g., school nurse, school counselor, school psychologist, and others) and outside the school (e.g., local community organizations, crisis hotlines, and other resources). In some instances, local community resources might even be willing to conduct an in-service presentation or workshop for school staff on teen dating violence.

 

If your school counselor and nurse are not aware of our online course and resource center, you may want to point them to it. The Dating Matters Resource Center includes hotlines that teens can call for help if they aren’t yet ready to connect with services.
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7. Where can I learn more about teen dating violence prevention?
a. Choose Respect Initiative: www.chooserespect.org

b. National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

c. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

d. National Sexual Violence Resource Center: www.nsvrc.org

e. National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 | 1-866-331-8453 TTY | www.loveisrespect.org

f. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV): www.ncadv.org

g. CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Adolescent & School Health: www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/injury/index.htm
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About Dating Matters: Course Content and Objectives
1. What makes Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention unique?
2. What are the goals of the course?
3. Who is the intended audience for this course?
4. Can training for educators help prevent teen dating violence?
5. What is the training based on? Where did the content come from?
6. Why do I need to complete the course in one sitting if I am interested in continuing education units (CEUs)?

 


About Dating Matters: Course Content and Objectives

1. What makes Dating Matters: Understanding Teen Dating Violence Prevention unique?
Dating Matters is the first course of its kind; as a free, online resource, it offers educators and others working with youth a comprehensive overview of teen dating violence prevention that is grounded in evidence-based research and vetted by experts in the field.
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2. What are the goals of the course?
CDC and Liz Claiborne Inc. created Dating Matters in response to requests from educators in more than 25 states who were beginning to integrate teen dating violence prevention education into middle and high school curricula (State Laws on Teen Dating Violence prevention have been passed in FL, GA, IL, NE, NJ, OH, RI, TN, TX, VA, WA and are currently being considered in other states).

 

As many of these educators know, the academic success of America’s youth is strongly linked with their overall health and well-being. But without staff training on teen dating violence and where to go for resources, educators are often unable to understand the risk factors and warning signs associated with teen dating violence or their role in promoting healthy relationships.

 

Dating Matters is meant to provide educators with this information so they can better understand the risk and protective factors around teen dating violence and find the resources they need to become actively involved in teen dating violence prevention. Specifically, Dating Matters seeks to:
i. Increase knowledge/awareness of teen dating violence;
ii. Increase knowledge of the impact of teen dating violence;
iii. Increase the number of educators who can be models of healthy behavior; and
iv. Facilitate changes in classroom practice and changes in school climate by working with educators to modify norms that support the use of violence.
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3. Who is the intended audience for this course?
Dating Matters is designed primarily for educators, but anyone working with teens, especially youth between the ages of 11 – 14, will find the information useful. We designed Dating Matters with primary prevention in mind, and we believe it is important to teach youth about healthy dating relationships either before they begin dating or when they are just starting to date.
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4. Can training for educators help prevent teen dating violence?
Teens often come to educators in confidence — to discuss academic issues or share problems. Teens and school staff spend a lot of time with one another. This presents an opportunity for teachers, but it also means teens are looking to adults in the school for guidance. But it is not one teacher’s responsibility alone to prevent dating violence in her/his school. It is a community’s responsibility - parents, educators, health care workers, the media, religious organizations, and community organizations - to make sure respectful relationships take the place of violence inside classrooms and schools and in the broader community.
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5. What is the training based on? Where did the content come from?
Faced with the problem of teen dating violence, many educational professionals realize they need (and want) to learn more about effective tools — ones that help them identify and recognize the warning signs. Educators also want to be able to offer youth effective guidance about how to get out of or prevent these types of negative dating situations.


Based on this need, we designed Dating Matters with primary prevention in mind, using evidenced-based material from the following sources: violence-related articles from peer-reviewed journals of behavioral, scientific, and medical literature that have been recently published; original research from conferences; government data and reports; the National Health Education Standards and CDC’s Characteristics of Effective Health Education Curricula; and interviews with practitioners and educators. A full listing of all resources used for the course can be found by visiting the course’s resource center.
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6. Why do I need to complete the course in one sitting if I am interested in continuing education units (CEUs)?
To obtain continuing education credits for the course, you must complete the entire course in one session. To protect your privacy, CDC uses only temporary cookies in Dating Matters (a cookie is a small piece of information that a Web site stores in the Web browser). These cookies are automatically deleted when you close your browser. As a result, the course cannot keep track of your progress when you discontinue the session. After you finish the course, you are linked directly to CDC’s Training and Continuing Education online system. Here you will register to receive a certificate of completion or continuing education credits.
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