Gendered Perceptions of Relationship Violence Among Urban Youth: The Effects of Domestic Violence Prevention Education

Julie Cowgill, Arizona State University
Melissa Poure, My Sisters' Place

ABSTRACT
A growing awareness of physical, sexual, and emotional violence among urban youth has created the need for community partnerships to combat domestic violence. These collaborations attempt to provide teenagers with the necessary tools to make positive relationship decisions. Statistics suggest that one in four teenagers will experience violence in dating relationships. Research indicates youth perceptions of domestic violence are gendered. Early intervention in junior and senior high school settings provide the best opportunity to educate youth about relationship violence. Domestic violence education should use various learning styles to reach as many students as possible. Emergent strategies should be proactive, holistic, and ongoing. Our paper examines the unique collaboration between a domestic violence shelter and the city's police department to develop domestic violence prevention education in local schools. These agencies created PAVE (Preventing Abuse and Violence through Education), a relationship violence education program for youth. Seeking more effective ways to provide education, PAVE sought the help of the city's Parks and Recreation and a local university. The effort centered on the production of No Rhyme or Reason, a play created to address issues surrounding relationship violence including potential warning signs, types of abuse, and key aspects of healthy interpersonal relationships. The data are drawn from observations, interviews, and surveys conducted over a six-month period. Interviews were conducted with the actors prior to reading the play's script and receiving domestic violence prevention education, and again at the end of the production. Surveys were completed by 1200 youth following performances at local junior and senior high schools. Our analysis explores the gendered perceptions of healthy and abusive relationships, and examines how perceptions varied according to age, race/ethnicity and the impact of previous exposure to domestic violence prevention education.

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Updated 05/20/2006