Stopping Teen Dating Violence in New Jersey with Safe Dates

Dates of Project: July 2009 through June 2011

Field of Work: Intimate partner violence prevention

Problem Synopsis: One in four adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner. Unhealthy, abusive, or violent relationships can cause short-term and long-term effects, including poor school performance, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and suicide attempts.

Synopsis of the Work: From 2008 to 2011, eight projects implemented Safe Dates, a dating abuse prevention program, in middle and high schools through New Jersey Health Initiatives, which supports projects that improve the health and health care of state residents. Safe Dates includes a 10-session curriculum that targets attitudes and behaviors related to dating abuse and violence, and a play and a poster contest that reinforce key points in the curriculum.

Grantees included organizations that specialize in prevention programs, school-based health centers, one staff training organization, and one school district. The nonschool-based grantees partnered with middle and high schools.

Key Results

  • Over three years, some 22,000 middle and high school students in 47 schools in 12 counties across New Jersey participated in Safe Dates. Some 267 teachers, instructors, and staff, and 233 peer leaders (older students), received Safe Dates training.
  • Participating students increased their awareness of teen dating abuse and violence, and changed their attitudes. For example the Princeton Center for Leadership Training, which reached 8,144 students in 13 high schools, found that:
    • 53 percent of students could identify 10 abusive behaviors—up from 27.4 percent before Safe Dates.
    • Students retained key messages, including understanding that abuse includes more than just physical assault.
    • Students unanimously agreed that Safe Dates should continue at their schools.

Schools that offered Safe Dates through seven of the eight projects are continuing the program.

In 2011, New Jersey passed a law requiring schools to provide education on dating violence, and to establish prevention policies. The state has included Safe Dates as one of the educational resources.