RI Students Engage Their Peers to Help Them KNOW MORE About Dating Violence

The Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence (RICADV) is launching Teen
Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month 2014 with a campaign created and
depicted by teens from a Providence organization called Young Voices. Prior to
February, these high school students met and brainstormed ideas for a public service
announcement (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP_xLhsvl-c) that focuses on dating
abuse perpetrated via social media platforms. When asked why they chose this
particular topic, the teens’ collective answer was, “It’s real. It happens all the
time.”

Aware of recent tragedies in Rhode Island involving digital dating violence, where
abusers had become excessively jealous over their partners’ social media activities,
the students feel strongly about this area of dating violence as one that their
peers need to know about. KNOW MORE, the message of this year’s campaign, is an
expansion of the national NO MORE campaign to end domestic violence that the RICADV
adopted last year. Research shows that educating and engaging bystanders is a
promising way to help prevent the widespread problem of domestic violence within
communities. The RICADV’s 2014 TDVAPM campaign – KNOW What to Do. KNOW What Love Is
– aims to give young people the tools they need to promote healthy relationships
amongst their peers, recognize the warning signs of dating violence, and help anyone
they know in an abusive relationship.

“It’s understandable for a young person to be afraid to get involved. They may
think it’s none of their business, they may fear getting hurt themselves and, in
many cases, they may not even know what a healthy relationship looks like in order
to know abuse when they see it. It’s not healthy for a partner to demand to check
your phone or to check up on you constantly. These are controlling behaviours, and
they’re warning signs of dating violence,” said Lucy Rios, Director of Prevention
and Public Education for the RICADV.

Christina Garcia, Youth Advocate and Dating Violence Prevention Manager at Sojourner
House, one of the RICADV’s six member agencies, works with many young people in RI.
Her programs help them KNOW MORE about the dynamics of dating violence so that they
can stay safe and help others do the same.

“I am passionate about working with youth. We know that violent behavior in
relationships can be seen even before middle school. I believe that all children
have the potential to grow up to live violence-free lives and that all adults have a
responsibility to educate young people early enough to prevent dating violence from
happening in the first place,” said Garcia.

Garcia supervised the teens from Young Voices alongside their program coordinator,
Peter Chung. Young Voices is a Rhode Island-based non-profit that empowers youth to
use their leadership skills and gives them an outlet for creating systemic reform
and policy change to improve the lives of young people across the state. In
addition to their work on the RICADV’s television and radio public service
announcements, which they both conceived and enacted, the group from Young Voices
will model how to utilize social media in a positive way throughout the month,
spreading the word about dating violence prevention and the importance of bystander
intervention.

Other students from Rhode Island are also participating in the February campaign.
Students from The MET School worked on surveying their peers through a grant
provided by the Rhode Island Department of Health. The survey helped the students
learn about teen impressions of intimate partner violence and of healthy
relationships while helping them identify how dating violence prevention educators
can better serve Rhode Island youth. During this project, they received technical
assistance and development from the RICADV and Sojourner House.