Safe Dates is a school-based prevention program for middle and high school students designed to stop or prevent the initiation of dating violence victimization and perpetration, including the psychological, physical, and sexual abuse that may occur between youths involved in a dating relationship. The program goals are to change adolescent norms on dating violence and gender-roles, improve conflict resolution skills for dating relationships, promote victims’ and perpetrators’ beliefs in the need for help and awareness of community resources for dating violence, encourage help-seeking by victims and perpetrators, and develop peer help-giving skills.
Safe Dates is a school-based program that can stand alone or fit within a health education, family, or general life-skills curriculum. Because dating violence is often tied to substance abuse, Safe Dates may also be used with drug and alcohol prevention and general violence prevention programs.
The Safe Dates program relies on primary and secondary prevention activities to target behavioral changes in adolescents. Primary prevention occurs when the onset of perpetration of dating violence is prevented. Secondary prevention is when victims stop being victimized or perpetrators stop being violent. Primary prevention is promoted through school activities, while secondary prevention is promoted through school and community activities.
The Safe Dates program includes a curriculum with nine 50-minute sessions, one 45-minute play to be performed by students, and a poster contest. The sessions include:
1. Defining Caring Relationships. Students are introduced to Safe Dates and discuss how they wish to be treated in dating relationships.
2. Defining Dating Abuse. Discussing scenarios and statistics, students clearly define dating abuse.
3. Why Do People Abuse? Students identify the causes and consequences of dating abuse through large- and small-group scenario discussions.
4. How to Help Friends. Students learn why it is difficult to leave abusive relationships and how to help an abused friend through a decision-making exercise and dramatic reading.
5. Helping Friends. Students use stories and role-playing to practice skills for helping abused friends or for confronting abusing friends.
6. Overcoming Gender Stereotypes. Students learn about gender stereotypes and how they affect dating relationships through a writing exercise, scenarios, and small-group discussions.
7. Equal Power Through Communication. Students learn the eight skills for effective communication and practice them in role-plays.
8. How We Feel, How We Deal. Students learn effective ways to recognize and handle anger through a diary and a discussion of “hot buttons,” so that anger does not lead to abusive behavior.
9. Preventing Sexual Assault. Students learn about sexual assault and how to prevent it through a quiz, a caucus, and a panel of peers.
Safe Dates involves family members through the use of parent letters and parent brochures, which provide information about resources for dealing with teen dating abuse. In addition, schools can get parents more involved by hosting parent education programs or by talking one-on-one with parents of youth who are victims or perpetrators of dating abuse. Teachers are encouraged to connect with community resources by locating and using community domestic violence and sexual assault information, products, and services that provide valid health information.