Teen Dating Violence: Innovative models

Innovative Models, Innovative Models — By on January 1, 2011 6:10 pm


Beginning in January 2004, the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team (YWAT) decided to address the issue of teen relationship violence. The young women were fresh off having researched the prevalence and impact of street harassment.  They crafted a survey, which they administered to over 290 young men and women at their local middle and high schools. The key findings include:

• 11.1% of teen respondents said that they have been/are in an abusive relationship. 4.8% said that they were not sure.
• 79% of survey respondents said that they believed that “dating violence is a big issue among teens.”
• 62.1% of teens said they know other teens who are or have been in an abusive/violent relationship.
• 54% of teens believe that “if someone is being abused, it is not his/her fault.”
• 81% said that they probably or definitely would talk to a friend about the abuse.
• Only 39% of teens that we surveyed would talk to a family member about being abused.
• 19% would probably or definitely talk to a teacher, pastor, or counselor if they were being abused.
• Only 12% probably or definitely would call a dating/domestic violence hotline for advice.
• Most teens that we surveyed didn’t know of many places for teens who are in abusive relationships to get help.

The group then decided to undertake a major education campaign enlisting the support of stakeholders including educators, organizers, and even the Mayor of Chicago, who declared teen dating violence awareness week as early as October 2005 (well before Congress declared Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week in 2007). Since 2004, YWAT members have conducted at least 60 workshops to educate their peers and adult allies about the warning signs and impact of relationship abuse.

For more information about the resources that YWAT has developed over the years about teen dating violence, click here.


Since 1995, Between Friends’ Relationship Education: A Choice for Hope (REACH) Program has addressed teen dating violence by providing prevention and education programming for over 70,000 middle and high school students, ages 11-18. Friends’ REACH Program is one of the largest and most comprehensive teen dating violence prevention programs in Illinois.

Often, teen dating violence programs consist of intermittent workshops for girls, but REACH offers more consistent support to young women.  In line with best practices, REACH focuses on schools where the group can provide a continuum of programming to students between grade levels and programs where they can have the greatest impact.  REACH offers a variety of programming: during the school day or after school; co-ed or single sex; middle school or high school; activity or discussion-based; two to eight (or more) sessions; youth leadership development; adult trainings; and special events – like a youth poetry event focused on ending violence .

A group of young people also decided to create a Public Service Announcement about teen dating violence, because they spent all summer learning about domestic violence and wanted to educate others about it along with providing resources for people who need help. All of the girls also worked on individual projects that they are using to educate others about teen dating violence. They did a newsletter, a poster, a zine, and developed a workshop on technology abuse.  You can see the PSA here.


Karla Andrade, a young person who was a 2009 Freedom Fellow at the Chicago Freedom School, has offered teen dating violence workshops to her peers.  Karla describes her efforts here:

“During my fellowship year, I learned to see the world in a different perspective. I saw that the issues me and my friends face weren’t such a small deal after all. I created a teen dating violence workshop, to educate teens about the signs of, and prevention of unhealthy relationships. A very close friend of mine went through relationship abuse, to the point where she thought she was completely alone, and no one would understand she had to put up with this guy for two years. This is the reason why I decided to create this workshop, youth deserve to know and understand the signs and how to prevent an unhealthy relationship. I do not want people to go through something like my friend did, so by educating them I can help them realize that they are able to take control and get help. So far I have conducted seven trainings – six at my school for the entire freshman class, as well as for about 60 youth at the little village youth forum. I have so far informed about 240 youth, and I plan to do it again this year to the new freshmen at my school, and again at the little village youth forum.”