During Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and throughout the year, it is important to highlight the role that youth leadership has played as an effective strategy in the prevention of teen dating abuse. Research shows that young people are disproportionately impacted by partner violence, with more than 1 in 5 women and nearly 1 in 7 men experiencing some form of intimate partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age (CDC, 2011). When dealing with issues that directly affect their lives, it only makes sense that young people are meaningfully included in the planning and implementation of solutions. Teens, therefore, are best positioned to inform adults about the abuse that is impacting their lives and about effective strategies for promoting healthy relationships.
Youth leadership brings personal benefits to teens in the form of increased knowledge, skills, self-esteem, and resilience (National Center for Victims of Crime, 2007). On a broader level, when given the opportunity and skills to do so, youth leaders inspire their peers, set positive examples, and have the ability to change lives in their communities and beyond. In fact, youth have historically been change-makers, positioning themselves at the forefront of many social justice movements.
Following this rationale, loveisrespect/the National Dating Abuse Helpline hires volunteers between the ages of 16 and 25 years to work as peer advocates, and organizations on the local, state and national levels are increasingly understanding the importance of convening youth advisory boards. Examples of strategies for promoting youth leadership are highlighted below. These strategies may start with reaching out to and sharing information with youth, but they also must involve learning from youth leaders in our movement and incorporating their voices at the present moment.
Promoting youth leadership means not only developing the leaders of the future, but putting youth in charge today (National Center for Victims of Crime, 2007).
How do we do it?
Reach out to teens in schools and the community. Engage in conversations with teens by going where they are (schools and communities) and/or inviting them to a conversation at your organization (girls-only group, boys-only group, or a mixed gender group). Conversations are one powerful way to engage young people as social change agents. Our Revolution is a guide for activists, advocates and allies who are interested in facilitating a conversation among high school students about how we can create compassionate communities without violence. The guide offers a step-by-step process that explains how to facilitate the conversation in an effective manner.
When reaching out to youth, it is critical to ensure that marginalized communities are not excluded, especially when these individuals may be the ones experiencing the highest rates of violence and abuse. Marginalized youth (teens who are racially or culturally diverse, teens with disabilities, teens who identify as LGBTQ, teens who are low- income, among others) have unique experiences and their voices are critical to any meaningful conversation about social change.
Foster student activism within schools. Providing tangible tools that youth can use within their campuses and communities can be empowering. For example, Gay/ Straight Alliances (GSAs) are a helpful way to support youth leadership in local schools. A resource for new and already-established GSAs or similar clubs, The GLSEN Jump-Start Guide offers guidance to students on how to establish or re-establish a group, identify its mission and goals, and assess their school's climate.
Moreover, youth can benefit from general resources such as the NO MORE Guide for Students Activists, which provides ideas for events and activities that students can organize on college campuses to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. The Feminist Majority Foundation’s National Young Feminist Leadership Conference is also another avenue to “provide young activists with the opportunity to network, grow their knowledge on pertinent domestic and global feminist issues, and fine-tune their organizing methodology.”
Help youth develop skills and knowledge to become role models and peer-leaders in the community. Inviting teens to volunteer at your organization and/or linking teens with other agencies to gain work experience and advocacy skills are helpful ways to build youth leadership. For example, by training youth to be educators, the Out Spoken LGBT Youth Speaker’s Bureau of the Northwest Network of Bi, Trans, Lesbian and Gay Survivors of Abuse seeks to empower youth to directly address and challenge the systems that impact their lives. Similarly, helping teens identify and connect with adults (e.g., faculty, coaches, etc.) who can mentor them in becoming effective leaders is also critical.
Create *meaningful* opportunities for youth leadership within anti-violence organizations. Young leaders can effectively help to support social change by being recruited onto advisory boards and youth councils. The National Youth Advisory Board (NYAB) of loveisrespect consists of individuals ranging in age from 13 to 24, working together to represent youth of all ages, backgrounds and communities. This board provides insights and feedback on every aspect of loveisrespect.org – from its design to how it is marketed. Working both online and off, NYAB members write blogs for the site and host awareness-raising events across the country, among other efforts. For organizations interested in convening youth councils, the Youth Council Toolkit provides sample forms, agendas, materials and advice about lessons learned from working with youth.
Remember to put youth in charge today! When developing prevention education and awareness campaigns and materials targeting youth, let young people drive the concept and the message. Input from youth can be obtained in various ways, including via advisory boards or focus groups within the local community. To access examples of youth-led prevention campaigns, please check the PreventIPV Tools Inventory.
#YouthLeaders Twitter Chat
This February, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence is lifting up the amazing work of youth leaders in our movement to end gender based violence. On February 10th at 7:30pm ET, join us at #YouthLeaders to learn about the work of youth advocates at the community and state levels in Ohio and Idaho, to share your own contributions and youth initiatives, and to gain inspiration for moving forward together. Details here.
Highlights from previous twitter chat events hosted by the NRCDV about engaging youth to promote healthy relationships:
Start Strong’s Tool Kit: Starting Relationship Conversations with Adolescents:
Hosted by the NRCDV in partnership with the IPV Prevention Council, this webinar will highlight the PreventIPV Project with a spotlight on Start Strong, a high school peer leadership program that aims to prevent teen dating violence and promote healthy relationships. During this presentation, Start Strong Youth, together with Start Strong Program Manager Jess Alder, will highlight and discuss tools and approaches for starting conversations about relationships, systemic oppression, and media’s influence on society.
Register at: https://bwjp.ilinc.com/register/mjvbssh
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away every year (Hammer, Finkelhor & Sedlak, 2002). This figure is staggering, yet the problem seems invisible. When a youth runs away, the impact is felt throughout the entire community. Statistics from The National Runaway Safeline show that the majority (29%) of callers identify family dynamics (divorce, remarriage, step/blended families, problems with family rules, discipline, or problems with siblings) and abuse as the reason for their call. Often kids run away from home to remove themselves from an immediately painful situation, but they have no plans or resources for what to do next.
This year’s theme for NRPM 2014 is “Piecing it all Together,” in recognition that there are many pieces of a youth’s situation that need to be considered in order to provide the services that they need. This theme also represents the overlap between various at-risk and underserved youth populations. While many people tend to think of various youth populations as separate, the fact is that issue areas such as bullying, abuse, youth violence, human trafficking, LGBTQ, foster care, substance abuse, and the juvenile justice system, are often interconnected.
"Piecing it all Together” exemplifies the NRS’ role as a national clearinghouse and go-to resource for runaway and homeless youth. At the NRS, they not only piece together the different services available – everything from shelter to counseling across the U.S. – but they also gather data to identify trends in runaway youth and youth homelessness.
Visit the National Runaway Safeline's webpage to learn about how you can participate and observe NRPM. There are a number of ways that you can get involved and help to raise awareness and provide access to services for the approximately 550,000 unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness each year (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2012). Some of the ways you can join include:
The Green Light Project (Month Long Observance): Bring the Green Light Project to your town this November. Showing your support for runaway youth is as easy as flipping a switch! Porch lights across the country will glow green during November to raise awareness and show support for runaway youth. You can become a part of the Green Light Project by distributing Green Lights in your community. The National Runaway Safeline has created light bulb labels and posters, which are customizable for your organization. Download the Community Action Kit to learn more about how to start a Green Light Project in your community.
#tbt (November 6): On November 6th, people across the country will post a photo of themselves as a teenager to social media with the hashtags #irememberwhatitslike and #NRPM2014. Participants are also encouraged to include the link to NRS’ NRPM toolkit. Extra points if you make your photo your profile picture on Facebook!
Candlelight Vigil (November 13): Community groups and individuals across the country will host candlelight vigils on November 13th to show runaway and homeless youth that they are not alone.
"Wear Green" Day (November 20): Coordinate a “wear green” day with your friends, coworkers, students, and/or classmates on November 20th.
"Give Thanks" Thunderclap (November 27): On Thanksgiving, while families, individuals and communities reflect upon what they are thankful for, NRS is asking that everyone across the country “pay it forward” by participating in the NRS online thunderclap. A link to the thunderclap will be sent out through NRS email and social media for participants to share on their personal Facebook, Twitter, or via email. If you’ve never heard of a thunderclap before, think of it as the online version of a “funds raised” thermometers. Except, instead of measuring money, thunderclaps measure impressions.
To learn more about the intersections between runaway and homeless youth and intimate partner violence, check out NRCDV’s Runaway & Homeless Youth and Relationship Violence Toolkit. This toolkit organizes information, resources, tips and tools about the intersection of RHY and relationship violence. It also provides resources on intimate partner violence and the programs and networks that provide protections and support to victims of violence.
During Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), several domestic violence shelter programs across the country will be observing National SAF-T Day, held annually on the first Saturday in October. This national event originated in 2010 as an opportunity for shelters to host a local dog walk or other community event to raise funds to start or sustain an on-site pet housing program and awareness regarding the co-occurrence between animal abuse and domestic violence.
Why is such an initiative so important? Advocates have learned that abusive partners often use the bond between victims and their companion animals to control, manipulate, and isolate their victims. Research indicates that 20 to 65% of domestic violence victims delay leaving a dangerous situation because they don’t know where to place or how to protect their pets. Some survivors return because they fear for the animals’ safety (NRCDV, 2014).
Please read below for ways to increase your understanding of the connection between domestic violence and animal abuse and determine ways you can be involved in helping families with pets who are in dangerous situations.
To assist domestic violence victim advocates and animal rights activists better understand the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence has released the Technical Assistance Guidance, Why Pets Mean So Much: The Human-Animal Bond in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence. Developed by the Animal Welfare Institute, this document explores ways that victim advocates can assist survivors of domestic violence and their pets when seeking safety and refuge from abuse.
With increased attention to the connections between animal abuse and domestic violence, advocates may be asked to participate in media interviews. To help advocates stay on message and provide compelling information, the Domestic Violence Awareness Project (DVAP) provides a talking points form, How and why are domestic violence and animal abuse related?, which includes concise and fully cited data.
It is essential to do safety planning for pets, just as it is for the rest of the family. This safety planning brochure lists some important arrangements that families can make for their pets before leaving an abusive situation. Additional recommendations for programs to use during hotline calls and shelter intake are available here.
When a domestic violence shelter is unable to help a family with pets, they are missing an opportunity to help a large segment of their community and end the cycle of violence. Sheltering Animals & Families Together (SAF-T) is the first and only global initiative guiding domestic violence shelters on how to house families together with their pets. SAF-T enables more domestic violence victims to leave abusers without leaving their pets behind and at risk. The SAF-T Start-Up Manual and webinar provide helpful guidance and answer advocates questions about how to safely house pets on-site at a domestic violence shelter. With over 60 shelters participating, greater awareness and implementation of SAF-T is needed to help more families.
National SAF-T Day provides a way for domestic violence shelters to raise funds and community support to start an onsite pet housing program. As the national host organization for this event, the SAF-T Program strongly encourages local programs to register their events through their website beginning in September each year. An instructional handout providing guidance and ideas to assist advocates in replicating a SAF-T Day event in their communities is available here.
Every year, approximately 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner. It is also known that 3 in 4 parents have never talked to their children about domestic violence. In light of these alarming facts, every year during the month of February advocates join efforts to raise awareness about dating violence, highlight promising practices, and encourage communities to get involved.
There are many resources available to provide information and support to victims and assist service providers and communities to decrease the prevalence of dating violence among young people. Anyone can make this happen by raising awareness about the issue, saying something about abuse when you see it and organizing your community to make a difference. Take Action!
Did you miss the Call of Unity? A recording of the session can be heard via this link with messages from national leaders, survivors, and advocates, and the dual-voice spoken word poems of ClimbingPoeTREE. The 4th Annual National Call of Unity Summary (Storify) includes links to the inspiring resources that were shared including poetry, prayer, stories, and words of gratitude and hope. View and download the Universal Prayer for use at your October 2013 DVAM Events and beyond!
Everyone knows and cares about an older person at some point in their lives; many of us throughout our entire lives—whether that person is a grandparent, an elderly parent, a mentor or coach, or an older person that has been influential to us in some way. Unfortunately, statistics show that one in ten people age 60 and older are victimized by elder abuse.
The Administration on Aging (AoA) defines elder abuse as any knowing, intentional, or negligent act by a caregiver or any other person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Please read on (by clicking the link above) for ways to increase your awareness of this crime and determine ways you can be involved in preventing its occurrence.
Organized by the Office on Women’s Health, within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services, National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, held annually on March 10th, seeks to raise awareness of the disease’s impact on women and girls, and empower people with the knowledge and tools to make a difference. Listed after the jump are several ways you can be a part of these efforts in your community, state, across the nation, and around the world!
Everyone is impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault either directly or indirectly, but many do not realize it. Now is the time to change that. Our goal this year is to teach men, youth, women — everyone within our communities — how to recognize domestic violence and offer support to speak openly about it.
Every year, UN Women: United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women join with Say NO-UNiTE to End Violence Against Women to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. 16 Days of Activism begins on November 25 and continues through December 10 to raise awareness of this devastating issue that knows no bounds and to inspire action to end this pervasive human rights violation across the globe. Their website contains a global policy agenda, activist stories and videos demonstrating the work of their grantees, and 16 Ways to Say NO to Violence Against Women Action Steps.