Listen to Us | Stand4Respect

Dear Hoosier parents (and other adults who care about kids),

Did you know that 2 out of 3 teens will experience teen dating abuse? Unfortunately, 75% of parents don’t talk with their kids about relationships. While numbers as large as those are scary, talking to your kids shouldn’t be. Although your kids may not tell you this, we actually want to have these conversations. Ultimately, by initiating these conversations with us, you have the power to set us up to have safer and healthier relationships across our lifespans.

We are the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Youth Council, a group of high school students from  all over the state. Over the past few months we’ve talked with other teens and with adults across Indiana about why these conversations aren’t happening and why they’re important. Many adults have told us that they are afraid to have these conversations. So here are a few fear-busting tips that our peers have given us on how to have these conversations early and often:

  • It’s okay if you think this is hard…
  • It’s okay if you don’t always know what to say or have the perfect advice in that moment…
  • It’s okay if you don’t know the answers to all of your child’s questions…
  • …you can work together to figure it out!

There’s a difference between not knowing exactly the right thing to say and choosing to say nothing at all.  Use your past experiences–and new information–to help lead us in the right direction.

Keep in mind that conversations (talking AND listening) are better than interrogations (shooting questions at us and expecting immediate answers).

  • Remember to be open-minded and non-judgmental when talking and listening to your kids
  • Kids will answer your questions if they feel like they can give honest/real answers
  • Both adults and teens have valid information to share
  • Don’t jump to conclusions

If the timing isn’t right, don’t make us feel pressured to talk; let us know that the door is always open when we are ready.

The next step is to talk with us. We need your help in having these tough conversations. Trust us, we’ll be thanking you later. Together we have the power to prevent this problem. So what are we waiting for?

Love,

ICADV Youth Council

Helpful Listening Hints

A key point for adults to remember as we work to engage youth in conversations about respectful relationships is that conversations involve talking and listening. As adults we may have great experience, problem solving skills and helpful advice to share, but we must recognize that teens are the best experts on their own experience and on teen relationships in general. Really listening to hear where they are coming from will help you both to make plans for how to promote respectful relationships and prevent teen dating abuse.

Hints

  • Listen. Notice how much of the talking you are doing. If you’re doing 50% or more of the talking, you could probably be listening more.
  • Suspend judgment. In order for you to listen, your kid will need to do some talking. If you’re listening with all of your might and only hearing crickets, you might need to do a little more work to set the scene (link to the “setting the stage” tab). It can be a process to foster the trust that will enable your teen to share their point of view.
  • Don’t presume to know. Though many aspects of the teen dating world may be similar to when adults were last there, we can’t presume to know how it all works. Listen to really hear what’s different and which challenges and thrills are still pretty much the same.

If your teen is experiencing relationship abuse

In a national study only 32% of teens reported that they would tell an adult about their experience of teen dating abuse (TRU, 2009). Youth report that they seldom tell adults about their experience of teen dating abuse (TDA) because they believe that our interventions will make the situation worse. In spite of our best intentions, youth have not found adults to be very helpful in solving the problem of TDA and our blundered responses serve to reinforce the isolation and secrecy that youth experience around this social problem.

An often repeated theme in working with adult survivors of domestic violence is that the victim is the best expert on her or his experience. In working with youth experiencing TDA, we’ve had a bad habit of forgetting this wisdom. With the intention of protecting, adults may attempt to restrict or control the victim’s environment. The victim of TDA probably wants the violence to end, but she probably doesn’t want to lose access to her cell phone, social media accounts, friend groups, social organizations, etc. And if we reflect honestly on this lockdown approach to disclosure, we probably aren’t encouraging future disclosure from this or other victims.

In addition to wanting safety for the victim, adults may want to pursue accountability for the perpetrator. It’s very important to recognize that the victim may or may not share this goal. Our impulses are well-intentioned; we want kids who are behaving abusively to be held accountable out of a sense of justice, to prevent him or her from offending again, and to offer interventions designed to change abusive behaviors. But it’s important that adults don’t push our desire for accountability if that agenda negatively impacts the victim’s strategy for safety. A victim of TDA may not want to pursue accountability options for emotional reasons, for social reasons, or because he doesn’t believe that our accountability systems will be able to keep him safe from retaliation.

Adults can be supportive and effective by talking with victims of TDV about their safety and accountability options, and collaborating with them to create the safety plan that best meets their needs. Adults can help victims to explore their options—including what’s possible within the organization as well as the community’s civil and criminal legal systems—and the possible pros and cons of each choice. An excellent model TDV safety plan can be found at:

http://www.thesafespace.org/pdf/handout-safety-plan-workbook-teens.pdf

Together, we can end domestic violence.

We believe that violence is preventable. When we come together, we create real change in the lives of individuals and in our communities. Join us in the movement to make Indiana a state that is safe, inclusive, and equitable for everyone.

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