Teachers wield incredible influence over future generations; they are in a position to educate our youth about healthy relationships, as well as provide resources to students and their families who may suffer from dating/domestic violence. Using age-appropriate materials, educators are able to encourage students to form healthy relationships, recognize abusive behaviors and create an environment free from sexual harassment and disrespect.
Approaching a survivor of dating violence
- Start by expressing concern (“I thought it was possible that you are being hurt and I am concerned about you”)
- State the facts of your observations
- Be sensitive, don’t accuse or diagnose
- Actively listen, empower the student to make decisions
- Tell the student that it is not their fault
- Refer the student to trained counselors to assist them in developing a safety plan
If a student denies abuse
- Let them know that you are available if the student ever needs help
- Make sure the student has access to brochures and information that include a description of abuse, hotlines and local resources
- Respect the student’s decisions
Dealing with students who abuse
- Name the behavior as abuse
- Don’t agree with excuses they make for abuse
- Don’t be manipulated by the perpetrator
- Consult your school’s policy on violence to determine further action
- Let the survivor know ahead of time that you are confronting the perpetrator in order to avoid potential retaliation. You should refer the survivor to someone who can conduct a safety plan.
It is critical that both male and female students receive education about dating violence and sexual violence. Dating and sexual violence are gendered issues. Most men are not abusive, though the majority of acts of dating and sexual violence are committed by men against women. Research indicates that holding separate educational sessions for boys and girls is imperative for the creation of a safe space for students to discuss the issues, as well as in reducing victim-blaming and revictimization of students who have experienced or are experiencing abuse. The topics will be different; please see Prevention vs. Awareness
for more information.
While there is a widespread pattern to educate males and females equally in coed formats, the research indicates that this is not efficacious (Hong, 2000; Lewis & Fremouw, 2000). “It is important to differentiate aggressors from victims, and gender is an important facet of this distinction” (Lewis & Fremouw). Otherwise, curriculum may inadvertently encourage self-blame by assuming equal responsibility, especially if sexual assault components are included in the program. In order to avoid this, Hong suggests intervening specifically with young men, at an age when self-identity is frequently being pushed towards traditional assumptions of masculinity.
We suggest coordinating with a health teacher so that you can hold a session for girls in one classroom and a session for boys in the other. Experts should be invited from local organizations, or use a movie such as Tough Guise, along with the study guide.
The following are resources for beginning the conversation in your classroom.
Domestic violence/relationship abuse refers to intimate relationships, not child abuse. Because the vast majority of relationship abuse is committed by men against women in heterosexual relationships, this website sometimes contains the female gender pronoun when referring to the abused person. Domestic violence/relationship abuse happens at the same rate in LGBTQQ relationships and all of the information on this site is relevant for male victims and for individuals in same-gender relationships. In addition, please see our resources on same-gender
relationships. Our goal is to encourage helping professionals to be gender inclusive. This includes using gender-neutral language when working with individuals, while continuing to analyze gender as a construct that has implications on gender-based violence in both heterosexual and same-gender relationships.