In 2004, a Stanwood, Washington teen lost her life as a result of dating violence. Although this teen reached out to many who might have helped her change course, they didn’t recognize the signs of violence or just didn’t know how to respond. Unfortunately, this story is far from an isolated event. Teen dating violence in our state is common: a study found that 20% of 13-14 year olds say their friends are victims of dating violence. Additionally, only half of teens report they recognize the signs of a dangerous relationship.
Taking a stand against teen dating violence, WSCADV created a scenario-based training called In Their Shoes designed to help participants learn what dating is like for today’s teens, providing a window into unhealthy teen relationships. Participants become teen characters, make choices about their relationships and watch the consequences unfold.
In Their Shoes, the Methow Valley Way
This past month, Room One facilitated two sessions of In Their Shoes, one with a group of teens and one with a group of adult community members. Maureen Collins, Client Advocate, said, “the training is effective because the stories are true, and participants are empowered to make decisions from the perspective of the teen…you gain a real understanding of what teens are faced with, and see opportunities where adults or others could have made a difference.”
Kelleigh McMillan, Room One Sexual Health Educator, ran the training with a group of teens and found it to be a useful tool to “empower teens to stand up for their friends, to know when to ask questions and to reach out if they see signs of trouble.” After the exercise, over 50% of the teens reported a better understanding of how to recognize an unhealthy relationship and how to safely intervene.
Trainings such as these are part of a community-level strategy to prevent violence. We will continue to provide and expand trainings to include school teachers, law enforcement and wider audiences of teens. As summed up by Kelleigh, “the more awareness our community collectively has of issues such as depression, suicide, dating violence and self-harming behaviors, the more teens we will catch in our safety net. We have to be on the lookout and the only way we can is to know what to look for.”