In 1998, the National Council for Research on Women commissioned a report entitled “The Girls’ Report: What We Know and Need to Know about Growing Up Female.” The author of the report, Lynn Phillips, wrote that “recent findings suggest that girls and women not only underreport violence, but also resist naming their experiences of victimization, even to themselves” (p.45). She later went on to publish a book called “Flirting with Danger (2000)” that addressed this particular reality. She interviewed young women and found that they had experienced encounters that fit the legal definitions of rape, harassment, and/or battering, and yet only a minority of them described their experience as “victimization.” This is particularly problematic because researchers and practitioners have noted that girls are increasingly subjected to all different forms of violence: rape, battering, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, homelessness, prostitution, just to name a few.
YWAT has taken a keen interest in the issue of teen dating violence since 2004. We have conducted research about this problem and have organized a number of educational workshops for our peers and adults. Some of the key things that we have learned through this work is as follows:
1) Teens view dating violence as “hitting/beating” a partner. Emotional abuse is rarely seen as violence.
2) When we say “violence” as teens we may not be “talking” about the same thing as adults are.
3) Teens don’t compartmentalize violence in the way that adults seem to. They want to talk about community violence in conjunction with relationship violence, for example. They don’t separate domestic violence from sexual violence.
4) Teens may not necessarily view “dating” as involving emotional attachment.
5) It is important to offer concrete negatives – dating violence IS a crime. You can go to jail.
6) We have found that in talking with our friends who are in dating violence situations a good way to get them to open up is to use probes like: What is it about you that he/she likes? This then allows a friend to remind the survivor that they have strengths and value.
7) Age, Race & Gender does play a role in teaching about this issue. Be prepared to be asked: “I’m sorry but how would you know what we like?” Make sure that you have a ready response!
Check out all of our research, resources, and writing about teen dating violence in the other sections.