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Only 250 days before the start of DVAM 2019...

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month 2015: Promoting Youth Leadership

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:
#ReachYouth: Engaging LGBTQ Youth to Prevent Teen Dating Violence
#FVPSAyouth Twitter Town Hall

TDVAM Webinar

Start Strong’s Tool Kit: Starting Relationship Conversations with Adolescents:
Tuesday, February 24th, 2014 from 3:00-4:30pm

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.