What is teen dating violence?

Teen dating violence is a pattern of power and control in a teen relationship. Power and control can take many different forms-emotional, physical or sexual actions that cause one person in the relationship to have less power than the other. As teachers it is more likely that we are going to see the signs and effects of emotional abuse. If we are seeing physical abuse at school, this is a major red flag.

If you are noticing red flags (someone feeling uneasy, embarrassed, humiliated, hurt or one-sided power) in your students’ relationships, our Healthy Relationship Statements can be a helpful , open, and nonjudgmental way to talk to students about relationships:

In a healthy relationship…

I get to be myself

I treat others well

I can say no

I have fun

Each of these statements may be turned into a question. Are you having fun with ________? This helps students to think critically about their own relationship without inserting your own judgment.

So how can you talk with your teens when their relationships are worrying you? Just use your EDGE.

Empathize-this can be as simple as asking a student how they are doing.

Don’t Judge- this is critical with teens. We don’t want to isolate them from adults or peers who could help. We can avoid questions that subtly judge: “why are you with ________?”, “why do you let them treat you like that?”

Give Resources-this could be a listening ear, suggesting a trusted adult to talk to, the DSVS helpline (406-425-2222), a national texting helpline (text ‘HOME’ to 741741), or an informational website.

Encourage-let the student know that you are always willing to talk.

About Consent in Relationships:

The age of consent in Montana is 16. At Power Up, Speak Out! we define consent as ‘permission to cross a boundary’.

Consent is an active process between two people

Consent is activity specific: Just because you give consent for a hug, does not mean you give consent for a kiss, etc.

Consent can be taken back at any time: Just because you wanted a hug this morning doesn’t mean you want a hug tonight.

Consent must be given in a free and clear mindset: Consent cannot be given if someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if there is force used, if there is coercion, if there is a significant age or power difference.

How can DSVS/Power Up, Speak Out! help: DSVS has a 24 hour confidential helpline (406-425-2222). Teens can call. You can call if you have questions about how to respond to concerning teen behavior.

If you would like more information on how your school can get involved and spread awareness of teen dating violence with several activities throughout February, check out Break the Cycle.