Category Archives: relationships

The Bruises and Kisses Our Bodies Don’t Show: ACT Mannequin Art Project on Teen Dating Violence Prevention

By Kathleen Wong, 18, California

Art created by ACT Against Teen Dating Violence

Advocating Change Together (ACT) is a peer health advocacy program at Girls Incorporated of Alameda County, California. ACT has chosen to advocate for the cause of teen dating violence prevention because this is an issue that seriously impacts our communities and youth.

Teen dating violence is defined as a pattern of actual or threatened acts of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse, perpetrated by a partner to gain and maintain power and control over another. Statistics reveal that at least one in three high school and college-age young people experience violence in an intimate or dating relationship.

Domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women between the ages of 15–44. Most people stay in their violent relationships—in part because victims usually blame themselves for causing the violence.

The purpose of ACT is: (1) to allow high school girls to be involved in and advocate for issues affecting women/girls in the community; (2) to reduce the violence in our communities; (3) to encourage youth to have healthy relationships that build a sense of well-being, (4) to increase awareness of the health issues stemming from dating violence; (5) to raise community awareness of available resources; and (6) to create systemic change in San Leandro and Oakland that will benefit present and future generations.

The ACT program consists of groups in San Leandro and Oakland. Participants are first educated about how to be advocates and they learn about teen dating violence and healthy relationships. ACT creates system change by recommending policy, based on our own research analysis, which is then presented to policymakers such as the San Leandro City Council and school administrators. Every month, ACT participants are required to educate at least four peers to enlighten them about the problems of teen dating violence and the benefits of having healthy relationships. In addition, ACT does advocacy, runs workshops, conducts research, and outreaches through social media to local high schools to educate and prevent teen dating violence in the community. Topics addressed include violence, misconceptions of rape, the cycle of abuse, power, and control, being an ally, setting boundaries, and many others.

Recently ACT participants used mannequins as a canvas to illustrate the effects of healthy and unhealthy relationships on our emotional, physical, and sexual health.  A division on the body of the mannequin indicates the contrasting effects of violent and nonviolent relationships on the body. Half of each mannequin shows the positive benefits of a nonviolent and respectful relationship characterized by equality; there are images of hearts and happiness, along with words of endearment on this part of the collage. The unhealthy sides of the mannequins have extensive imagery of cuts, wounds, and bruises, in addition to multiple insults and offensive words. One mannequin has a fencing—like the fencing that surrounds many homes—on the side of healthy imagery of a relationship—to convey the message that everything may seem all peachy and lovey-dovey on the outside, but behind closed doors, that is where the violence occurs.

All of these mannequins illustrate that teen dating violence is not only physical and sexual, but also emotional and mental, and likely to have lasting effects on the victims’ lives.  For example, dating violence can foster low self-esteem, and make its victims accustomed to violent partners and to being treated as unequal and unworthy.

My experience in ACT has been life changing. ACT has helped me grow as a person.  I’ve learned how to network. I have become more confident and less shy. And I have improved my public speaking skills. Overall, I’m becoming smart, strong, and bold! Also, being a part of ACT has changed my perspective on how I look at my community. Because of ACT, I am more aware of what goes on in my community. Before, I never would’ve thought that I could actually make a difference in helping my community. But now, thanks to ACT, I am very determined and passionate about doing whatever I can to make positive changes for my community.

My hope for ACT is that the program will continue as long as possible because it sends such a powerful and positive message to young people that we can advocate for change by working together. I would also like to see ACT become more involved in the community, which has started happening. ACT girls have been attending community meetings to learn more about violence prevention and ways to improve public education on this topic.  I hope this trend will continue and we will get even more involved in the community. One day, I hope the community will know the value of what we do. I hope the community already knows ACT is working to make improvements and that we care!

You can learn more about ACT’s move against teen dating violence by following ACT on Girls, GirlsIncACT on Twitter, and by liking Advocating Change Together Girls Inc. of Alameda County on Facebook.

For more information on healthy dating relationships, see the Teen Voices article in the 2012 Teen Focus section of the online Boston Parents Paper, pages 6-8 at:

There are other organziations that can help too:

Love is Respect

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Circle of Six

We happen to know of two Jewish organizations that offer fantastic teen dating violence prevention programs and curriculum,  Shalom Bayit in Oakland, California has Love Shouldn’t Hurt  and Jewish Women International has a prevention program for girls called Strong Girls and one for boys called Good Guys.

Transitions and Dreams

By Jillian Martin, Editorial Intern

As summer approaches and the school year comes to an end, many of us hug our friends goodbye and we see them back at school in three months. However, for some, such as those with a graduation or a big move looming over their heads, these goodbye hugs may be permanent.

Whether you’re heading off to college in the fall, starting work at a new job, or moving to a new home, or simply hanging out for the summer, early June is a time of transition.  School ends, the weather changes, and you probably can’t help but feel a little bit scared as well as excited about the changes. Here at Teen Voices HQ, we like to use these times of transition and those feelings of anticipation to set goals. It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey through life, whether it is graduation time or right in the middle of your middle school years, hopes, dreams, and goals are important to articulate and achieve.

No dream is too big. Check out our article on Kathleen Hassan; the body prayer for dreaming and achieving that she shared at the Girl Up event at Mother Caroline Academy is really helpful. Simply close your eyes and think of your dream. Once you have that clear, you already have a big goal set. Now that you have your goal, write it down and post it up somewhere that you’ll see it every day. This visual aid will give you a daily reminder of something you’re working toward.

You can also take part in The Legacy Project’s “Share the Dream” video, which was inspired by a Texas school district. Students, teachers, and administrators all read from Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom and Wishes; now it’s your turn. Get a group together and read Dream. At the end, share your own dreams on camera and upload the video onto YouTube. Now the whole world can be inspired by your dream!  And now you’ll feel compelled to work toward it!

Having the dream is the easy part; the hard part is getting there. Break down the big picture: what are the baby steps you need to take to achieve your goal? Why are they important? How will they help you do what you want to do? Make a calendar and set dates for each of your mini goals. When you reach them, celebrate! You deserve it.

But when the going is slow or rough, you may need some inspiration. Here are some creative tips for setting goals and staying on track:

  1. Make a collage or “dream chest.” If your goal is to get into your top college choice, print out photos of the campus or put items into a chest that inspire you. If your goal is to become an actress, print out photos of your favorite stars as a reminder of the success you want to achieve.
  2. Make a “to-do” list. By making lists of tiny goals to achieve each day, you’ll learn to be super focused and it feels oh-so-good when you get to check them off! This process also instills the good habit of writing down everything you need to accomplish.
  3. Find a buddy. One of your friends is sure to have a dream of her/his own; maybe she/he shares your dream! Work together to encourage and inspire each other.

There are plenty of other ways to share your dreams, as well. Read our blog on Frank Warren and the PostSecret project.  And don’t forget to head on over to the Artist of the Month Contest page. This month’s theme is “Dreams”—so get out your pencils and paper, brush and canvas, or camera and tripod, and show us your interpretation of what it means to dream. You could win some great prizes, and I’ll be that’s on your dream list!

Dear Society: Domestic Violence is Not Okay!

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern

Photo by Molly Hartigan, 21

Did you watch the 54th Grammys this year? Perfect timing—February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. A mere three years ago, R&B artist Chris Brown, 19 at the time, got angry and beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna so badly she had to be hospitalized. At the time, a disturbing number of people, not only men, but also women and many teen girls, blamed Rihanna for the attack. WHAT?! Since when is this physical abuse okay?

Sadly, we, as a society, haven’t seemed to learned much in three years. Chris Brown was invited to perform again at the Grammys this year, as if he were a stellar role model. Clearly, not everyone believes Chris Brown was in the wrong. Take a look at this  sampling of tweets we found on BuzzFeed:

“I don’t know why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to.”

“I wish Chris Brown would punch me.”

“Dude, Chris Brown can punch me in the face as much as he wants to, just as long as he kisses it.J”

These nonchalant tweets worry us. Domestic violence is a serious issue. As activists committed to empowering girls, we hope to help society realize these insensitive tweets are not acceptable. And we want girls to know that even if you aren’t in a  dating relationship now, you need to know the warning signs of an abusive relationship. Here are some ways you can help:

1. Learn more about dating violence, its symptoms, and how common it is. According to Break the Cycle and the National Dating Abuse Helpline, “Girls and young women between the ages of 16 and 24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence—almost triple the national average.” Don’t know anyone who’s been a victim of dating violence? That’s because only 33 percent of teens in a violent relationship will ever tell someone about the abuse. Many girls find it easier to try to hide their bruises than to tell someone what’s happened or report the incident to the police because they are afraid they will be blamed. So if you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, as a first step, you can help by creating a supportive listening environment.

2.  Watch for the warning signs of physical and sexual  abuse. According to HelpGuide some warning signs of physical and sexual abuse are: (1) Afraid or anxious to please his/her partner, (2) Frequent injuries caused by “accidents,” (3) Restricted from seeing family and friends, (4) Dresses in clothes designed to hide bruises or scars, such as long sleeves in summer or sunglasses indoors, and (5) Low self-esteem, even if s/he used to be confident.

3. Be aware that physical and sexual abuse aren’t the only types of domestic violence; verbal abuse hits just as hard. According to author Patricia Evans, the emotional pain of being put down constantly by a partner can lead to serious issues, including eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. Because emotional pain cannot be seen with the eye, it is harder to pick up on.

4. Show your support for dating violence victims. If you are worried about a friend and his or her relationship, try to talk with her in an open, nonjudgmental manner.  Help her confide in a trusted adult.  Don’t ignore symptoms when you see them—rather than simply watching the Grammys and ignoring Chris Brown’s past, write a letter to The Recording Academy protesting their decision to allow him to perform.

5. Educate the public. Take Back the Night, is an organization founded in 1975 to make the world a safer place for women of all ages. It aims to spread awareness about violence against women. Women should be able to walk alone, in daylight or after dark, and know that they are safe. Find a Take Back the Night event in your area and join the cause!

Society may think it’s all right to glorify and excuse Chris Brown’s abusive history, but as young women, we cannot allow this behavior to continue. Change starts with you, so make a difference in your own life and the lives of others! If you or someone you know is a victim of dating violence, don’t remain quiet! Speak out—ask someone for help, or talk to your friend or loved one who is experiencing this type of behavior and help them find the resources they need to stay safe.

KIND Campaign Tries to Put Girl-on-Girl Crime to an End

By Carolyn Hardy, Editorial Intern

Most girls can relate to some experience with girl fighting—physical, verbal, or emotional.  Sometimes it’s “out there” and sometimes it’s in secret. Two college-aged women, Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, recently decided to take a stand against girl-on-girl bullying and start encouraging kindness. They started the KIND Campaign in 2009; it has grown into a full documentary and an international message to girls to STOP the competition, STOP the cattiness, STOP the hate, and BE KIND. has loads of ways for you to get involved and take part in the campaign!

  • Kind Cards: Post positive messages to the girls in your life to let them know how important and how loved they are.
  • Kind Magazine: Read more true-life stories from girls and their experiences with girl crime and finding the kind in their lives.
  • Kind Country: See where Lauren, Molly, and KIND have been on their tour and check to see if there’s a KIND club near you. If there’s not, find out how to start one!
  • Kind Girls: Show your support for the KIND campaign. Type in your name and upload your photo to the mural of dozens of other girls who support KIND.
  • In the Media: Check out interviews with Lauren and Molly and see how far KIND has reached among the media.
  • Library: Look over the KIND-recommended booklist for girls in middle and high school—They accurately portray “girl world” and the prevalence of girl crime.
  • T.A.P.: Here is where you can do the most to support the KIND campaign.
    • T is for Truth: Share your experiences and how you’ve been affected by girl bullying to help expose the truth of what happens in the girl world.
    • A is for Apology: Write an apology to someone you’ve harmed through girl-on-girl crime. You’re encouraged to share your apology with the person to whom you’re writing.
    • P is for Pledge: Take the KIND pledge to unite in kindness in an effort to end female bullying.

Click here to see if a KIND club is hosting a screening of the documentary near you.

For more information about girl-on-girl violence, check out:

Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Howard R. Spivak, Sugar and Spice and No Longer Nice: How We Can Stop Girls’ Violence (2005)

Lyn Mikel Brown, Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection among Girls (2003)

Note that Lyn Mikel Brown will be offering the Jean Baker Miller Memorial Lecture at Wellesley College on Friday, October 21, 2011 at 7 pm.  The title is “Fighting Like a Girl: How Girls Can and Do Make a Difference.”  The lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. Visit:

Teen Dating Violence: It’s Time to Strike Back

By Anya Krenicki, Editorial Assistant Intern

Photos by OUCHcharley  and by soundlessfall

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, one in five high school girls report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Even more scary? More than two-thirds of victims will never report the violence, according to a study conducted by Teen Research Unlimited.

It’s no wonder that Break the Cycle, a national nonprofit organization combating dating violence, refers to teen dating violence as a “silent epidemic.” Because victims of dating violence tend to be so reluctant to report it, the violence slips under the public’s radar. This silence creates an unaware and often unwittingly tolerant environment for the cycle of abuse to continue.

Break the Cycle is dedicated to ending this dangerous pattern through a combination of programs that each tackles a different aspect of the issue at hand. From prevention education, including in-school programs to inform teens about ways to build healthy relationships, to legal services for teen victims, Break the Cycle believes that public awareness is crucial to ending teen dating violence.

According to Break the Cycle, dating violence can be defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.

This pattern of behavior often manifests itself in a cycle: the couple experiences a period of tension that results in an explosion of anger and then resolves itself during the “honeymoon” period following an apology on the part of the abuser. This pattern repeats continuously, whether it is mental, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.

While no teen enters into an abusive relationship willingly, some may be unaware of, or ignore, the signs that a relationship is headed in that direction. Break the Cycle acknowledges ten of the most frequent warning signs that a partner may become abusive:

  1. Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  2. Constant put-downs
  3. Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  4. Explosive temper
  5. Financial control
  6. Isolating you from family or friends
  7. Mood swings
  8. Physically hurting you in any way
  9. Possessiveness
  10. Telling you what to do

Unfortunately, many teens do not recognize these signs until they are caught up in the cycle of abuse. That needs to change!

For Quahtayvia, 16, signs of the dating abuse she was experiencing in a past relationship were hard for her to see. “Most people think it would never happen to them. When you’re in it, you’re lost. You don’t know what to do because you like your partner so much, and they say they like you back,” she says.

Now, she can look back and point out some of the signs that her relationship was taking a turn for the worst. “One of the signs is if your partner is trying to take over the relationship…He or she gets upset easily, and tries to break down your confidence,” she says.

For Bria, 17, witnessing her friends’ abusive relationships has been just as difficult. “They like the guy a lot, so they make excuses for him, like ‘Oh, I just got him really mad.’ Some people know that there is [teen dating violence] education out there, but they don’t take the time to learn,” she says.

Teen girls agree, however, that this education is absolutely crucial. Sandra, 17, says: “I think [teen dating education] is really important so that abused girls know that they’re not the only ones, and that they can get out of a relationship like that.”

Joi, 16, agrees, “Education is very important, especially for young girls. They are very vulnerable and give in easily…It’s horrible.”

This past April, Break the Cycle partnered with Verizon’s HopeLine and Dr. Phil to announce a competition hosted by the “Let Your Heart Rule” campaign. The competition invited teen students to work together to create a video public service announcement (PSA) that would speak out against teen dating violence.

Each PSA was entered into a competition to win $1,000 for their school, tablets from Verizon, and the chance for their PSA to be featured on national television. (View the winning PSA here:

Cameka Crawford, a manager at Verizon and an organizer of Verizon’s HopeLine, spoke with Teen Voices regarding the project and Verizon’s role in the “Let Your Heart Rule” campaign.

Teen Voices (TV): How does HopeLine help victims of domestic abuse?

Cameka Crawford (CC): HopeLine from Verizon donates wireless phones–complete with 3,000 minutes of airtime–for use by domestic violence victims and survivors. These phones serve as an important link to emergency services in times of crisis, as well as a private, safe connection to employers, family, and friends.

Also, Verizon customers can get help and information about domestic violence by dialing #HOPE from their wireless phones. This gives callers an immediate connection to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, where they can be directed to local resources.

 TV: Why do you think that domestic abuse is such a timely and important issue?

CC: Domestic violence touches so many people…Verizon recognizes that domestic violence is a national problem that has grave consequences for our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family members.

TV: How did Verizon’s HopeLine react to the “Let Your Heart Rule” campaign?

CC: We were very pleased with the level of participation. We had hundreds of schools enter the contest and we had some great entries. “Let Your Heart Rule” gave teens a platform to speak out against domestic violence. Also, we received thousands of online votes. It was great to see the online community support the students because they worked so hard.

TV: How can teen girls get involved in your cause?

CC: The best way for your readers to get involved with HopeLine is to host a drive in their school and community. And the good news is that hosting a drive is easy. We provide everything they need to get started. For more information, visit


Teen Voices recognizes that teen dating violence is a crucial issue with potentially deadly consequences for its victims. Teen girls may not have the knowledge necessary to recognize that their neighbor, classmate, or friend is a victim of teen dating violence. Some may not even recognize the warning signs in their own relationship.

Raising awareness is the first and most important step in reducing the number of teen victims!

For a closer look at the concept of teen dating violence, click here.

For some excellent teen dating violence prevention curriculum, see Jewish Women International:

Strong Girls, Healthy Relationships: Friendships, Relationships, and Self-Esteem

Good Guys: Partnership and Positive Masculinity

When Push Comes to Shove, It’s No Longer Love (video)

Shalom Bayit’s Love Shouldn’t Hurt (available in middle school, high school, and college versions)

Teen Voices’ Girl In Action Amanda Thomas took action to help the victims of domestic abuse by starting her own charity, The Big Re-Gift. Read more on how her charity benefits women victims and their children.

If you or someone you know may be a victim of teen dating violence, do not hesitate to reach out for help. There is always someone available who wants to help you.


If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1.
If you need to talk to someone, call the 24-hour, 365-day hotline at: 1-866-331-8453. All calls are anonymous and confidential.
If you would like more information on dating violence, or to chat anonymously with someone who can help from 4 pm to 2 am Central Standard Time, visit:
Interested in helping the cause? Check out ways to get involved: and

The Bride Wore Plastic

By Sarah Binning and Jessica Moore

According to Time‘s pop culture columnist, James Poniewozik, the train wreck reality show known as Bridalplasty is the worst TV show of 2010. We can’t say we’re upset!

If you haven’t read about the show, brace yourself. While bridal reality TV shows are not a new phenomenon, E! has gone to the extreme. Bridalplasty features brides going head to head in a series of wedding-themed challenges. The winner of each challenge earns … a honeymoon? No, that’s been done. A wedding cake? No, too practical. Plastic surgery? Ding ding ding!

That’s right. Women are competing for head-to-toe plastic surgery makeovers. The contestants, who range in age from 20 to 32, create a wish list of procedures they would like to have done before her wedding. Win a challenge, pick a surgery. One by one, contestants are voted out.The last bride standing reveals her new face and body to her fiancé as he  lifts her veil during their wedding ceremony.

One assumes that the groom already loves the woman he is about to marry. He has professed his love. The couple has decided to spend their lives together, come sickness, poverty, or — worst of all, the show suggests — wrinkles and cellulite. Yet these brides show a desperate need to improve their physical appearance. The messages to women and girls: You must continually “improve” your looks to remain competitive in love. You must look a certain way (light-skinned, skinny, and flawless) to be worthy of love. Oh, and you must be willing to undergo dangerous surgery to “perfect” your looks.

As with so many “reality” shows (Rock of Love, Flavor of Love, The Bad Girls Club, The Real Housewives of Name-Your-City), the women fight, backbite, connive, and generally make themselves ugly — on the inside — to win a “prize” they don’t need and shouldn’t want.

Nobody should be shocked the next time they read statistics on girls and women suffering from low self-esteem, bruised self-confidence, and eating disorders.

The good news? Bridalplasty‘s ratings are almost as bad as its premise.

Shedding Light on Domestic Violence

By Teen Voices editorial intern Lauren Castner

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Violence in intimate relationships is often kept a secret out of fear, shame, or embarrassment.  This month, it’s all about getting these issues out on the table and creating awareness so that girls and boys alike can feel comfortable coming forward and getting the help they need if they are in an abusive relationship.

The Clothesline Project, an organization seeking to create awareness about violence against women, puts into perspective just how common teen dating violence can be: “Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner.”  Even scarier than this fact is that many people do not report being abused, so the numbers could be even higher.

Dating violence is more than just physical abuse.  A partner who is overly controlling, extremely jealous, and always checking up on you is abusing you too, and that abuse could turn physical.  Verbal mistreatment, or name calling, insults about your appearance, and rude or crude comments are abuse too.  Verbal and psychological abuses are just as much domestic violence as hitting and kicking.

The Lindsay Ann Burke Memorial Fund has a helpful list of warning signs that could help you realize that you are in an unhealthy relationship that could be headed towards physical abuse.  Some of the signs include: “isolation, verbal abuse, controlling behavior, and threats of violence.”

This month, let’s all put our foot down and say “No!” to dating violence.  Talk about this issue with your friends and family; make sure people know that teen dating violence is a problem.  Talk to your friends if you are concerned about a relationship they may be in.  Become an advocate for yourself and others and create awareness about the issue in your community.  Can’t come up with a good idea?  Check out Love is Respect – they have a whole list of things you can do!

There are many different organizations working to help teens get out of unhealthy and abusive relationships.  Please do not hesitate to contact any of them if you feel that you, or a close friend or relative, could be in a dangerous situation.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474
Teen Relationships: 800-300-1080