We all think we know what the word “violence” means – but do we? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define teen dating violence as the “physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional aggression within a dating relationship, including stalking. It can occur in person or electronically and might occur between a current or former dating partner.”
“Youth dating violence is a pattern of abusive behavior between two people who are romantically or sexually involved (no matter how briefly),” said Jennifer Reister, senior director of mission impact for The Julian Center. “Dating violence is not always physical; in fact, physical violence is often the last form of violence to occur. More common in youth relationships are controlling behaviors, emotional abuse, technological abuse, sexual violence, and social isolation. Focusing on the threshold of physical violence to define a relationship as dangerous ignores the significant damage and risks of other types of violence. In the end, all violent relationships are about control – the types of abuse are tools employed to maintain that control.”
According to Reister, one out of every three high school students in America faces teen dating violence. When ranking the percentage of high school students who have reported sexual dating violence in the past 12 months, Indiana ranks third out of 30 states.
In an effort to prevent violence and intervene when necessary, The Julian Center’s Project Avery brings together a variety of community partners to educate teens and young adults about dating violence. According to Reister, Project Avery advocates for youth survivors, brings healthy relationship curricula to schools, and promotes awareness to the public by providing resources to parents and teachers.
“The best thing to do is to talk with kids early and often about how people should treat each other and what is acceptable from the people in their lives,” said Reister. “There are opportunities all the time with media, friends, and family to talk about abusive behavior and how to address it. If you see your child behaving in an abusive manner (physical or otherwise), don’t ignore or deny it – address it immediately. If you see your child accepting abusive behaviors from others, address is directly, too.”
Like The Julian Center, the Domestic Violence Network visits classrooms to offer healthy relationship and teen dating violence prevention programming to middle and high school students. DVN’s Youth Network establishes anti-violence clubs in schools to help students learn more about teen dating violence while also teaching them to be advocates in their communities. Additionally, participants learn how to assist friends who are in unsafe relationships.
Lindsay Stawick, director of programs for the DVN, has a violence prevention suggestion for teachers: push for detailed teen dating violence policies in schools.
“The most effective way we can prevent violence is to create a culture where violence is not tolerated,” she said. “Policies help to create that framework, and when enforced properly, [they] can make a significant difference in the lives of young people. Indianapolis Public Schools amended their Title IX policy in September to include teen dating violence and added more robust guidelines on prevention and intervention efforts as it relates to sexual harassment, sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking.”