The title of Foshee’s (1998) article suggests preventative measures to minimize adolescent dating abuse. It is, but I will take issue with a few basic ideas and methods later. Towards that end, “Safe Dates,” a school- and community-based adolescent abuse prevention program was studied to determine if the intervention helped to alleviate intimate partner violence. School activities included a dramatic play, a 10-session curriculum, and a poster contest. The community program included service-provider training and special services. While intimate partner violence is widespread, little research, according to Foshee, has been conducted among teens. This study hoped to fill in that gap in the literature.
The program’s (not the study) theoretical basis was one where the desired results were changes in norms and changes in prosocial skills. The author cited previous studies of weak conflict management skills that are associated with teen aggression, specifically with intimate partner violence, as justification for the above school activities. The community activities were implemented to support the school activities and to train service providers to be more helpful. The study was conducted in with the participants of students 12 to 17 years of age in 14 schools. From the community to the schools, service providers and teachers were provided with training on intimate partner violence to assist the study and to teach the program to the students. The study employed a series of 116 questions to determine the degree of partner violence that the participants were a part of, either as perpetrator or victim. For this study, there were control groups as well as treatment groups.
Here are the issues that I have with this study. Given that the issues are address in an isolated area of school and the school’s community and not the wider society, this addresses the issue with a few experiments that are no more than band aids. It addresses the issue as something that young women and girls have to deal with and attempts to minimize the violent behavior. It excuses boys and young men’s behavior as tending toward violence, but it never addresses this violent behavior as systemically wrong and institutionalized and that boys and young men should address the core of their behavior toward women and girls, whether partners or not. It does not address cultural beliefs in this country of male violence that is accepted as boys just being boys and men just being men and women just have to learn to deal with it. None of this is addressed in the study, with the social workers, with the program, or with the teachers. More programs like this are appearing and media propaganda campaigns are addressing rape culture, but more is necessary to address this on an institutionalized level. If we continue to program boys and girls and adults in such a way that violence is accepted behavior, middle and high school students will continue to be the subject of such experiments.
Ultimately, this kind of work is uphill, but implementing programs tied to asset-based community development and participatory action research that addresses whole communities will begin to assist individuals and communities in the evolutionary process.
Foshee, V. A. (1998). Involving schools and communities in preventing adolescent dating abuse. In X. B. Arriage & S. Oskamp (Eds.), Addressing community problems (pp 104-129). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.