Shockingly common, one third of teens in the U.S. have been a victim of verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from a dating partner (CDC 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey). Just as concerning is that more than 80 percent of parents believe that teen dating violence isn’t an issue. In order to educate and eradicate abuse, SafeHouse Center, a local nonprofit focused on ending sexual assault and domestic violence, created a high school peer education program called Teen Voice in 2003. Teen Voice is a group of 17 young adult volunteers (ages 13-18) who convene to provide peer education on teen dating violence, healthy relationships and consent as well as community activism. The program is based on research showing teens learn better from their peers, rather than adults.
Community events to end teen dating violence & sexual assault
Teen Voice hosted an open meeting in February in honor of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month to educate teens about techniques used to speak up in the community and help adults learn the signs of teen dating violence. Findings reported by the CDC 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey show that those who had abusive relationships as teens are more than twice as likely to encounter them as adults. Additionally, research shows that 50 percent of teens who have experienced physical and sexual abuse attempt suicide clarifies the dire importance of programs like Teen Voice. More than 25 people attended, including youth, school administrators and counselors, as the young adults personally invited school staff to see their presentations on ending the cycle of violence, hoping to promote presentations at all local high schools. Seth, teen member and a senior at Pioneer reflected “I can only hope that our presentations have made an impact on my peers, and through our work; hopefully, we will find social change.”
Outside of events and field trips, Teen Voice members meet weekly on Wednesday evenings during the school year to talk about community education and event planning. According to Barbara Niess-May, Executive Director of SafeHouse and Laura Hoehner-Dane, Volunteer Coordinator, the youth planned programs for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. In order to join Teen Voice, individuals must apply, complete an interview and be accepted into the program (accompanied by parental consent). Paige, a sophomore at Community High School expressed, “Whether it’s by presenting to classrooms, hosting and attending events, or partnering with other activist groups in our community, being a part of Teen Voice makes me feel like I’m making a difference in a world where making a difference as a teen isn’t always easy.”
Community presentations led by peer educators
Teen Voice offers one-hour peer led interactive multimedia presentations about teen dating violence, consent and healthy relationships and will present to any local classroom or organization that is interested. SafeHouse reports that Teen Voice typically provides 20-30 presentations per school year, reaching well over 700 students in local schools and organizations. Two peer educators from the Teen Voice program who have been through extensive training on sexual assault and domestic violence present alongside a SafeHouse staff member. Additionally, resources are identified and made accessible for youth who have surviveddomestic/emotional violence in Washtenaw County. SafeHouse provides services for teens (anyone 14 years and older). As well, pursuant to Michigan law, seventeen year olds can access services without parental consent.
If you are a teen, or know one that is enrolled in
any Washtenaw County High School, who would like to join
the Teen Voice program, email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are an educator or community organization that would
like to schedule a Teen Voice Presentation, fill out a form
online at safehousecenter.org/teen-voice-presentation-request
24/7 hotline 734-995-5444
(anonymous and confidential)