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.
- Lessons from Literature: Futures without Violence – Provides lesson plans for English teachers to integrate discussions on physical, verbal and sexual abuse into existing curriculum.
- American Bar Association: National Teen Dating Violence Prevention Initiative – Provides teacher-specific materials and resources for elementary through university level educators.
- “Tough Guise” Video Discussion Guide (pdf) – A comprehensive discussion guide that includes section summaries, key points, discussion questions, classroom and writing exercises and suggested reading lists.
- Literature List and Book Discussion Questions
- Language Framing Exercise
- Prevention vs. Awareness
- How to Talk About Relationship Abuse
Teen Talk: Porn The Representation Project
MissRepresentation.org discusses the media’s portrayal of women and girls, provides media literacy education guides and conversation starters for teens and families. The Mask You Live In is a film that discusses masculinity and can be found on this site.