Safe Dates Teaches Teenagers the Difference Between Healthy and Abusive Relationships

Field of Work: Dating abuse prevention.

Problem Synopsis: One in four adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Synopsis of the Work: The Princeton Center for Leadership Training partnered with 13 schools in New Jersey to implement Safe Dates, an evidence-based curriculum focused on dating abuse prevention. The center recruited partner high schools, trained teachers and staff as Safe Dates instructors, provided technical assistance, and assessed the project.

Key Results/Findings

  • 8,144 students at 13 New Jersey high schools in eight counties completed the Safe Dates curriculum between 2008 and 2011.
  • The Princeton Center for Leadership Training trained 97 instructors in the Safe Dates curriculum.
  • Students demonstrated a significant change in attitudes and knowledge about dating abuse. For example, the percentage of students who could successfully identify 10 abusive behaviors increased from 27.4 percent to 53 percent after participating in Safe Dates.
  • Stakeholders (administrators, student support staff, teachers, students, and parents) were satisfied with their school's involvement with Safe Dates, with most responding that the topic was important, the activities engaged the students, and it was a user-friendly curriculum.
  • Incorporating Safe Dates presented challenges, including fitting the program into the school schedule, balancing teaching styles with following the program, and being able to devote enough time to all program elements.