Recognizing and Responding to Teen Dating Violence Toolkit
2.0 Dear Staff
Research has uncovered a correlation between childhood trauma and poorer health outcomes later in life, known as adverse childhood experiences. Witnessing domestic violence at home or experiencing community violence increases the risk of experiencing dating violence. Adverse childhood experiences are prevented or buffered through the creation and nurturing of safe, stable relationships as well as community support. Schools play a critical role by promoting positive, caring relationships, and through teaching skills to manage stress, resolve conflict, and regulate emotions.
“School staff play a vital role in young peoples’ lives. Some students spend more time with their teacher, counselor, or coach than they do their friends or family.”
School staff play a vital role in young peoples’ lives. Some students spend more time with their teacher, counselor, or coach than they do their friends or family. It is only in the context of trusted relationships that young people will allow someone into their world. Young people are keen observers of the behaviors of adults in their lives, seeing if they keep their word, can be trusted, and whether they are genuine. Do our actions reflect what we tell our young people? Do we say that we care about them but when they come to speak with us, we consistently say we are too busy? Do we fail to make eye contact with them and look elsewhere when they speak with us? It breaks their trust in us when they feel unheard or unseen. A young person may try only once to tell anyone what they are going through. Some young people may not have any adults that they feel they can trust, and they believe that no one cares about them. Students spend a significant amount of time at school and may confide in us because they see us regularly.
School staff are usually the first ones to notice when a young person is going through something adverse. Due to spending a consistent amount of time with students, staff notice changes in behavior, mood, demeanor, or relationships. If we want our young people to succeed academically, then we must provide a school environment where they feel safe. Safety is not just achieved through locked doors, gates, and a law enforcement presence on campus. It also requires staff, students, parents, and others who are informed, attentive, and who know what to do when encountering a situation that does not look, feel, or sound right.
“If we want our young people to succeed academically, then we must provide a school environment where they feel safe.”
Relationships among our students may look very different than when we were their age. Many relationships today don’t have labels like “boyfriend” or “girlfriend.” It can be friends who are physically intimate with each other but do not consider themselves to be in a relationship, also known as “friends with benefits.” Or it could be an open relationship in which those in the relationship also date and are intimate with other people. Dating violence occurs even when there aren’t labels describing the relationship. We must not miss warning signs because we assume they are just friends, or we believe they are in a relationship with someone else.