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Teen Ambassadors Needed

Leaders with strong social media skills wanted to help teach others about dating violence

  • January 20, 2017
  • By domesticshelters.org
Teen Ambassadors Needed

Teens—we adults know you don’t like to be preached to. You know almost everything about everything. We get it. You’re smart cookies. But as you start dating, hooking up and getting serious about your significant other, there can be a couple of scenarios that happen that seem … confusing.

One of these scenarios is fighting. All couples fight—this is normal. Couples should disagree occasionally. Then, ideally, couples should talk about their disagreement, come to a compromise and apologize if needed.

But what if it doesn’t play out like that? What if the fight gets way too heated?

One in every 10 high school students say they’ve been hit, slapped or physically hurt by their boyfriend or girlfriend. That’s not OK.

What’s even more troubling is that only 9 percent of teens who are experiencing abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend seek help from a parent or teacher. That means the other 91 percent are staying silent. Or, they’re turning to their peers for advice.

Would you know what to do if your friend told you that their boyfriend or girlfriend hit them? Pushed them? Threatened them? Or were stalking them?

A website called ThatsNotCool.com was designed just for teens to help you understand dating violence, and know what to do should you or one of your friends find yourself with an abusive partner.

The main emphasis is on digital abuse, most likely because it's no secret teens are certifiably addicted to technology in all forms. Texting and social media are how we communicate now, but a lot of teens have also found these are a means for bullying and abuse. Statistics show that more than half of those who experience digital abuse by a partner also experience some form of physical abuse.

So, What Can YOU Do?

Eleanor Davis, Public Education, Campaigns and Programs with FUTURES Without Violence, the nonprofit behind ThatsNotCool.com, says learning about abusive behaviors before you ever encounter them can prevent you from getting into a sticky (read: dangerous) situation later. “If you know how to assert your boundaries, you’re more likely to see fewer problematic behaviors in the future.”

That’s why the site is inviting young people to take the lead on this initiative. Teens are invited to become ambassadors, spread the word about digital abuse and organize their friends to get involved.

Ambassadors are between ages 13 and 18, are strong leaders and are whizzes with social media. Every month, ambassadors get “Missions” to complete, ranging from printing off a poster and putting up at your school to holding a screening of a documentary about dating violence. (Start with Audrie & Daisy, which premiered on Netflix last September. It follows two teenage girls in different parts of the country who were assaulted by male classmates. The assaults, which, in part, were filmed using cell phones, were then shared with other students on social media. FUTURES helped create the website, which includes a discussion guide for screenings.) 

Each mission gets you ambassador points, which will help you “level up” to different stages of ambassadorship—from Novice to Visionary, each one with its own cool perks.

Quiz Yourself

Want to see how much you already know about what healthy relationships look like? Take the Cool or Not Cool? Quiz and see how your answers stack up to other responders’. For instance, is it cool or not cool for your boyfriend or girlfriend to ask for your Facebook password so he or she can check in on you?

[Teens: Stop Reading Here!] Adults, There’s Something for You, Too

ThatsNotCool.com also offers an “Adult Allies” section that gives you vital information on teen dating abuse and tips on how to encourage teens to get involved in the cause.

If you’re struggling with how to talk to your own teen about dating violence, you’re not alone, says Davis. “Approach the discussion from a place of curiosity, instead of a lecture about wrong and right.” She suggests asking your teen questions like: What are you seeing in your friend group, in relation to dating or dating violence? What are you experiencing? What are you struggling with?