Safe Dates is a school-based prevention program for middle and high school students designed to stop or prevent the initiation of dating violence victimization and perpetration, including the psychological, physical, and sexual abuse that may occur between youths involved in a dating relationship. The program goals are to change adolescent norms on dating violence and gender-roles, improve conflict resolution skills for dating relationships, promote victims’ and perpetrators’ beliefs in the need for help and awareness of community resources for dating violence, encourage help-seeking by victims and perpetrators, and develop peer help-giving skills.
Safe Dates is a school-based program that can stand alone or fit within a health education, family, or general life-skills curriculum. Because dating violence is often tied to substance abuse, Safe Dates may also be used with drug and alcohol prevention and general violence prevention programs.
The Safe Dates program relies on primary and secondary prevention activities to target behavioral changes in adolescents. Primary prevention occurs when the onset of perpetration of dating violence is prevented. Secondary prevention is when victims stop being victimized or perpetrators stop being violent. Primary prevention is promoted through school activities, while secondary prevention is promoted through school and community activities.
The Safe Dates program includes a curriculum with nine 50-minute sessions, one 45-minute play to be performed by students, and a poster contest. The sessions include:
1. Defining Caring Relationships. Students are introduced to Safe Dates and discuss how they wish to be treated in dating relationships.
2. Defining Dating Abuse. Discussing scenarios and statistics, students clearly define dating abuse.
3. Why Do People Abuse? Students identify the causes and consequences of dating abuse through large- and small-group scenario discussions.
4. How to Help Friends. Students learn why it is difficult to leave abusive relationships and how to help an abused friend through a decision-making exercise and dramatic reading.
5. Helping Friends. Students use stories and role-playing to practice skills for helping abused friends or for confronting abusing friends.
6. Overcoming Gender Stereotypes. Students learn about gender stereotypes and how they affect dating relationships through a writing exercise, scenarios, and small-group discussions.
7. Equal Power Through Communication. Students learn the eight skills for effective communication and practice them in role-plays.
8. How We Feel, How We Deal. Students learn effective ways to recognize and handle anger through a diary and a discussion of “hot buttons,” so that anger does not lead to abusive behavior.
9. Preventing Sexual Assault. Students learn about sexual assault and how to prevent it through a quiz, a caucus, and a panel of peers.
Safe Dates involves family members through the use of parent letters and parent brochures, which provide information about resources for dealing with teen dating abuse. In addition, schools can get parents more involved by hosting parent education programs or by talking one-on-one with parents of youth who are victims or perpetrators of dating abuse. Teachers are encouraged to connect with community resources by locating and using community domestic violence and sexual assault information, products, and services that provide valid health information.
11 to 17
Foshee and colleagues (2005) found significant main effects of treatment condition on psychological abuse perpetration, moderate physical violence perpetration, and sexual violence perpetration. These findings indicate that adolescents in the Safe Dates group reported perpetrating less psychological and sexual abuse at all four follow-up periods, compared with youths in the control group. The treatment group also reported perpetrating less moderate abuse than the control group. Treatment effects were the same for those who did and did not report using those forms of violence before the intervention, indicating primary and secondary prevention effects.
Treatment adolescents, who reported either no severe physical perpetration or average amounts of severe physical violence perpetration at baseline, reported significantly less severe physical violence perpetration than control subjects at the four follow-up waves. However, treatment and control adolescents who reported perpetrating severe physical violence at baseline did not differ at any of the four follow-up waves.
There was a moderate effect of treatment on physical violence victimization in the expected direction at all four follow-up waves regardless of conditions at baseline, indicating both primary and secondary prevention effects. There was a marginal effect of treatment on sexual victimization also in the expected direction.
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