To stop teens from entering abusive relationships, middle schools have begun a new program called Start Strong. Basically, teachers teach students to identify bad behaviors in relationships. You know, things like jealousy, possessiveness, and name calling. We think any effort to stop girls and guys from dating abusive idiots is great, but will it work?
Do things like coloring the words “Equality” and “Respect” with chalk (which they totally had teens do) really stop abusive relationships from happening? Is it any different than those Anti-Drug PSAs telling us not to smoke crack? We have to wonder if they’re effective at all. In fact, studies show teens who participate in D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) are more likely to use drugs than those who don’t participate in the program. Reverse psychology much?
You don’t need anyone to remind you that you shouldn’t hang out with a person that treats you like crap—it’s common sense! Everyone knows it, yet people still wind up in these horrible situations. We have a sneaking suspicion that victims who willingly engage in harmful relationships probably have other issues that make them attracted to abusers.
Maybe addressing things like self-esteem, image issues, and problems within kids’ households (For example: abusive or neglectful parents) would stop teens from becoming abusers or allowing themselves to be abused. Instead of training teens to notice things they can already identify like jealousy and name-calling, maybe if we taught teenagers to value themselves, to feel like they deserve the absolute best treatment, they wouldn’t be inclined to hit others or seek out partners who hit them?
It isn’t rocket science or even an educated guess, when we say, people who are possessive and want to harm others probably have some issues with self worth. If we spent more time helping those who might be the aggressors we might have more success.
We’re not saying Start Strong isn’t a good start, but it doesn’t seem to identify the root of the issue. Being able to see negative characteristics and behaviors isn’t the same as being able to stop them or get yourself out of a bad situation. Preventing teens from becoming abusers and victims in the first place by addressing low self-esteem and external circumstances that cause harm/self-harm might be a better solution.
Do you think programs like Sex Ed, Start Strong, and D.A.R.E. actually work? Let us know in the comments!