Teens in America are facing a staggering amount of dating violence. A report from 2018 found that 41% of teens under 18 reported experiencing at least one type of intimate partner violence. The needs highlighted by the alarming statistics surrounding teen dating violence are what Parenting: It’s A Life (PIAL) works to address through its Teen Dating Violence Awareness (TDVA) program.
A recent study conducted by Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) Bethany McCurdy and others from CWRTP evaluated the effectiveness of PIAL’s TDVA. PIAL uses a TDV simulation obtained and adapted from the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence in 2017 to create awareness around TDV. PIAL delivers modules to youth in middle schools and high schools across Iowa and covers topics such as decisions and goals, peer pressure, and healthy relationships. Currently, the TDVS is a supplement to the module on healthy relationships and is an important addition to PIAL’s TDVA program.
Graduate Research Assistant Bethany McCurdy said, “From what we have learned, we know that PIAL's delivery of the TDVA program significantly increased youths' knowledge and was an effective method of addressing the existing gaps in knowledge.” Further, an updated version of PIAL’s TDVA program implemented in 2020 revealed students’ increased knowledge on how to help friends in unhealthy relationships, as well as identify sources of information about teen dating violence.
PIAL program coordinator Rhonda Evans said, “These report findings encourage us that students are recognizing unhealthy characteristics in their lives and others lives and have the resources and courage to take action to remove themselves or seek help.”
Evans also shared feedback she received from a teacher in Moulton, IA who said her students made comments about how much they learned and how much the simulation helped them understand unhealthy relationships. The teacher finished her statement with, “[T]hank you all for the work that you do. It is so important and so often ignored.”
The following is taken from the study’s Conclusions and Recommendation: “The TDVA program, including the simulation In Their Shoes, proved to be an effective tool in teaching youth about various topics surrounding teen dating violence, as reported through students’ responses on retrospective surveys. After completing the PIAL TDVA program, youth reported significant improvement on their knowledge regarding recognizing unhealthy patterns and abuse in relationships. Furthermore, youth expressed a gain in knowledge on removing oneself or a friend from an unhealthy/abusive relationship.”
Evans commented on how the study’s findings will affect PIAL and the TDVA program moving forward. “Based on the successful findings of the student-reported data, we'd like to keep improving the program by creating more relevant stories and adding debrief activities such as a Courageous Conversations activity where students follow a prepared script and practice listening and sharing with a partner.”
If you would like to review the study’s findings, you can view a brief version here and the full version here.