Dating Matters® is an initiative developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to educate and protect teens from dating violence. The initiative focuses on helping youth ages 11 to 14 in urban communities that are considered to be at high risk for exposure to teen dating violence.
WHAT IS DATING VIOLENCE?
Dating violence is behavior that occurs among teens that are in dating relationships. This behavior includes emotional, sexual, physical and psychological abuse, and extends into stalking as well. Whether the behavior occurs in face-to-face situations or through electronic methods, such as social media, it is considered teen dating violence.
The Dating Matters® initiative focuses on providing information to teens about the three most harmful dangers associated with dating violence:
- The negative effects of dating violence that affects physical and mental health, and can have a serious impact on overall educational performance
- The potential for teens to move on to other relationships throughout their lives that continue their victimization rather than looking for relationships that are healthy and free from violence
- The understanding that while it is known that dating violence is a major problem in low income urban communities, very little has been done to help prevent these behaviors or address other risk factors that make teens more susceptible to entering relationships where violence is present
THE CDC’S APPROACH TO ADDRESSING TEEN VIOLENCE
Recent reports have provided alarming statistics in relation to dating violence within communities:
- Over the past year, one in ten students has been a victim of dating violence.
- 15% to 40% of those who participated in the studies admitted to being violent towards the person they were dating.
- Only one in four teens even reports violence or abuse in his/her relationships each year.
These statistics, and many others, have shown that there is a need to educate teens and their communities about the dangers of dating violence to prevent the behaviors from being carried into adulthood. The CDC hopes to do this with Dating Matters® by working within the communities to develop and implement a comprehensive plan that will help teens learn how to promote dating relationships that are mutually respectful rather than violent in nature. This approach also focuses on building public awareness and interaction to create strategies that help to prevent violence throughout the community.
Dating Matters® is currently in its infancy, undergoing deployment in Chicago, Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale and Oakland. This first phase is slated for five years and will allow the CDC to determine not only the costs and sustainability of the program but also whether it is effective in helping to curb dating violence in at-risk communities.
Dating violence is a serious matter and the CDC is also taking measures to help those in other communities by providing materials that teachers can use to educate their own students in an effort to stop the spread and perpetuation of dating violence within their communities before Dating Matters® reaches the end of its first phase of deployment.
By Dr. Ritu Goel