Local Approaches to Preventing Teen Dating Violence

By Blaire Bryant, MPH, NACCHO and Melanie Ruhe, MPH, NACCHO

This story originally ran in NACCHO’s Essential Elements blog.

Teen Dating Violence (TDV) – the physical, sexual, psychological, or emotional violence within a dating relationship – is a serious matter that affects many teenagers. According to a 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, 23% of females and 14% of males who experienced rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner, first experienced some form of partner violence between the ages of 11 and 17 years. The 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey found that approximately 10% of high school students reported physical victimization and 10% reported sexual victimization from a dating partner in the 12 months before they were surveyed. As teens (individuals aging from 13 to 19 years old) mature into adulthood, initial relationships are formative and shape expectations that persist throughout life. Unhealthy experiences can result in negative long- and short-term consequences, therefore it is essential to emphasize teen dating violence prevention early on.

Taking into account these alarming facts, advocates now join together every year to highlight TDV Awareness month in February. Many organizations such as loveisrespect.org, Break the Cycle, The Domestic Violence Awareness Project and the CDC provide TDV prevention resources for youth, families, communities, service providers, and healthcare professionals. They also provide support and referrals for victims of TDV. By bringing awareness to this issue, and equipping local public health agencies with tools and resources, we can decrease the prevalence of dating violence everywhere.

Dating Matters®: A Local Approach to Addressing Dating Violence
The CDC created the Dating Matters® (DM®) initiative to determine indicators related to violence utilizing school and neighborhood data from four major cities: Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; Fort Lauderdale, FL; and Oakland, CA. The program sought to educate youth and parents/caregivers on respectful, nonviolent relationships, using the CDC DM® curriculum, to decrease emotional, physical and sexual dating violence. Dating Matters® focused on early intervention strategies, adapting evidence-based prevention approaches for economically disadvantaged communities, and advertising the importance of preventing TDV. Additionally, as part of the initiative, CDC funded NACCHO to develop the Dating Matters® Guide to Informing Policy – a framework for evaluating TDV and TDV-related policies and synthesizing the information to inform policy – and the web-based Dating Matters® Tool.

Following the five-year program implementation period, the four sites participated in key informant interviews to discuss facilitators and barriers to program implementation. The following themes arose from the interviews as useful guidance for other LHDs:

  • Partnerships (especially with schools) increase data availability, accessibility, and the sustainability of the initiative.
  • Adaptation is key. Although the essential elements of the DM® initiative were the same across the test sites, the implementation approach varied by location.
  • Use policy development and reformation as a means of sustainability.

What’s to Come: TDV Indicator Resource & Webinar
NACCHO is currently collaborating with CDC to create a resource tool that hopes to further teen dating violence prevention through the identification and validation of community level indicators of teen dating violence. This tool will provide LHDs with the information and examples they need to effectively utilize publicly-available health indicator data at the community level, and then evaluate the by-proxy impact of their respective TDV prevention.

Read the entire story on NACCHO’s Health People, Healthy Places blog and learn more about the Dating Matters® Initiatives in Oakland and Baltimore.