Preventing, Assessing, and Intervening in Teen Dating Abuse

AIR’s National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments has released a training toolkit on teenage dating abuse for instructional support personnel. Research shows that schools can make a difference in preventing interpersonal teen violence. The training materials are designed for use by school staff—such as guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses, and other professionals—who provide services that address barriers to learning and assist students in being successful in school.

Teenage dating abuse is a pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse by an adolescent between the ages of 13 and 18 against a current or former dating partner. Abuse can include verbal, psychological/emotional, physical, and sexual expressions. While these forms of violence can affect any member of a school community, girls typically face disproportionate rates. Of those who have experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, about 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men were first victimized between 11 and 17 years of age. By addressing these issues early, schools can prevent immediate harm, and perhaps also prevent a cycle of domestic violence later in life.

The training toolkit explores the characteristics of both healthy and unhealthy dating relationships. The materials and activities provide strategies for assessing whether dating abuse is occurring with a student relationship, intervening when required, and guidance on school norms and policies. Participants in the training learn how to

  • identify healthy relationships and teenage dating abuse;
  • establish appropriate policies to address teenage dating abuse;
  • extend positive norms throughout school communities;
  • identify resources in school communities to address teenage dating abuse; and
  • identify groups in school communities that require special attention.

The toolkit also provides a case study to illustrate an example of dating abuse:

“The more time I spent with him, the more he would not allow me to hang out with friends and family. By the end of our relationship, I had one friend at school and was not involved in anything that he was not involved in. He isolated me completely, and had me all to himself. The decisions that I began to make were his decisions…We constantly fought and he would always threaten to hit me. He hit me once, and after that he threatened to hit me…He called me horrible names. He made me feel like I was worthless, and that I had no voice. After a while, the only voice that I heard was his.”

The training toolkit consists of a Trainer's Guide, PowerPoint slides, and handouts designed to actively engage training participants.

The training toolkit was developed with funding and input from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Safe and Healthy Students as well as input from the American School Counselor Association, Bishop O’Connell High School, Boston Public Health Commission, Futures Without Violence, Idaho Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, National Association of School Nurses, National Association of School Psychologists, National Domestic Violence Hotline, and Start Strong Austin.

The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments has also developed similar training toolkits on creating safe and respectful classroom and school bus environments.