For many of us, adolescent romance conjures images of little more than awkward kisses, missed curfews, and outsized phone bills. But recent data reveal a much darker reality: young adults experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence of any age group. A study released in March of more than 1400 seventh graders found that more than one in three reported experiencing psychological dating violence, and almost one in six reported being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend. Studies further show that the effects of teen dating abuse are manifold and include increased rates of depression, substance abuse, poor school performance, and even death; in California alone, there have been at least 20 teen dating abuse murders in just the last three years. And the impact of abusive behaviors experienced in adolescence can persist into adulthood, as a significant proportion of adult victims of rape, physical violence or stalking first experienced some form of partner violence between 11 and 17 years of age.
But these grim figures have galvanized advocates who are developing a range of innovative programs and strategies to help youth, parents, and educators alike to prevent intimate partner violence before it takes hold. How are San Francisco schools addressing teen dating abuse, and what more can be done? What policies and practices are most effective in preventing violence? And how can you help your teen avoid unhealthy relationships?
Leslie Simon, Instructor in the department of Women's Studies at the City College of San Francisco and founder and coordinator of Project SURVIVE, a peer education program that works to end power abuse in relationships, social groups, and public institutions. She is also one of this year's recipients of the SF Peacemaker Award.
Mika Sasaki, a peer educator and volunteer with Expect Respect SF, which brings youth-friendly presentations about healthy relationships and dating violence prevention to San Francisco public high schools. She is also a survivor of dating violence.
Lisa Fujie Parks, Prevention Program Manager and policy analyst with the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, a non-profit coalition of over 200 organizations and individuals working to end domestic violence. She is also the coordinator of the Partnership’s Safe at Schools initiative, dedicated to advancing effective teen dating abuse prevention policies and programs.