Category Archives: violence against women

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.

“Kony 2012:” What About the Girls?

By Teen Voices Interns Kate Szumita, Raven Heroux, and Mary Gilcoine

Even if you don’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr account, you’ve probably heard something about the Kony 2012 campaign. Kony 2012, the campaign’s 30-minute film, has gone viral and created an unprecedented uproar in social media. The campaign was launched earlier this month by Invisible Children, a non-profit raising awareness of African armed conflict and the use of kidnapped children as rebel soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  Simply stated, the mission of the Kony 2012 campaign is to make Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony famous enough that he will be captured and brought to trial.

Kony’s crimes are undeniably heinous. According to the campaign film Kony 2012, Kony has abducted more than 30,000 children over the course of 20 years, forcing young girls into sex slavery and young boys into warring as child soldiers. As advocates for teen girl empowerment, we’re deeply disturbed by the statistics about girls.

But we’re also disturbed by the lack of attention to girls and girls’ issues in the film. While it’s understandable that Jason Russell (co-founder of Invisible Children and creator of Kony 2012) seeks to hold the attention of the masses—a temperamental target audience that may shy away from stories that are too graphic or disturbing—we have to wonder: Where are the girls? Why is the film so silent about the stories of these girls? Russell mentions only in passing the atrocious sex crimes committed against young African women. It is astonishing and disappointing how much this film glosses over the extent of crimes committed.

So why has Invisible Children shaped the Kony 2012 to hold such a narrow perspective? The girls—and all the affected children—deserve a safe place to tell their stories, and to be heard.

It’s critical that a film and organization seeking to make “invisible children” visible should not render girls invisible and voiceless. In the past, the organization has showcased the struggles of African girls from war-torn areas. Among these girls is Grace, who was kidnapped and forced to become a sex slave. Soon after, Grace found out she was pregnant. Grace is celebrated for her strength as a survivor and her resilience in starting a new life.

Roseline has another amazing story of strength, when she was left to survive on her own after her parents were killed by the war.

While we wish that Russell had given voice to girls like Grace and Roseline, we also must give credit where credit is due. In many ways, the film is moving and inspirational and it’s clearly tapped a vein among many people. The Kony 2012 campaign has, if nothing else, proven the power and influence of social media on mass society. Despite heavy criticism from bloggers and other media, in a matter of weeks, Kony 2012 has undoubtedly grown from a film to a movement. Many well-intentioned social media consumers, including teens, are indeed making Joseph Kony famous.

But, to quote Spiderman’s uncle, “with great power comes great responsibility.” So the questions become: How can we use this film and the tool of social media wisely? How can we harness the momentum that’s building around the exploitation of all children to make the world safer? What changes would you like to see made in the world? And what actions are you willing to do to foster that change, even if there’s a personal cost?

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

Symposium Gives Voice to Gender and Sexuality Issues

By Sarah Binning

For 35 years, the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) has worked to promote female leadership and to achieve female economic and educational equality. On Saturday, WCW gave voice to the road blocks we face in our struggle for diversity and equality at their Reflections, Conversations, New Directions Symposium.

Teen Voices’ Executive Director Jenny Amory attended the Gender and Sexuality panel, which featured panelists  Deborah Tolman (author of Dilemmas of Desire: Teenage Girls Talk about Sexuality), Linda Williams (UMass Lowell professor of Criminal Justice and Criminology), and Jean Kilbourne (co-author of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids). Wellesley College Director of Studies of Gender Policy in U.S. Jurisprudence, Monica Driggers, moderated the discussion.

Amory says that the compelling presentations and discussions ranged on topics from the commoditization of sexual agency in girls to mainstreaming of pornography to the ways that violence is intertwined with sexuality and power.

Following the session, she said, “The research on these topics so clearly points to the need for organizations like Teen Voices that promote girl-generated media and support girls’ voices  in the mainstream media.”

For more information on the Wellesley Centers for Women and the symposium, please visit their website.

Photo of Jean Kilbourne courtesy of Wellesley Centers for Women

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

Real Men Don’t Buy Girls: Demi and Ashton Campaign to End Sex Trafficking

A lot of interesting news came out of the Clinton Global Initiative conference held on September 23 in New York. Among the developments, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher announced the Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign (to watch the announcement click here), which aims to raise concern about child sex slavery and to stop the demand for child sexual exploitation and child pornography.

The video discusses the disturbing news that there are more people enslaved in the world today than ever before, and that many of these people are forced to sell their bodies.  Of the roughly 12 million slaves in the world, about 2 million of them are children in the sex trade.

The Real Men Don’t Buy Girls campaign aims to end the buying and selling of children for sex purposes by eliminating the troubling misconception that it is in any way OK to purchase a child for sex.  Moore and Kutcher founded the DNA Foundation to carry out the mission of the campaign.  They are teaming with law enforcement and technology companies to identify and eliminate the trafficking that occurs online.

The DNA Foundation’s tagline is “Freedom – it’s in our DNA.”  To help bring freedom to those enslaved in the sex trade the foundation has the support of Twitter, Microsoft, and other influential tech companies committed to bringing sex trafficking to center stage so that we can eliminate it.

The foundation’s website makes it easy for anyone to get involved.  You can donate, send information to your family and friends, or call your senator to ask him or her to support a bill in Congress right now that will increase law enforcement’s funding in several states so that they are better able to go after the people responsible for the sex trade.

To find out more about sex trafficking, check out our Spring/Summer 2010 print issue!  To subscribe to Teen Voices click here.  If you want to learn more about this CGI commitment, head over to the DNA Foundation’s website here.

Girls Discovered Maps the Challenges Facing Girls and Women

At Teen Voices, we empower teen girls, helping them create social change through media and providing an arena for them to share their stories. But many of the world’s 574.7 million teen girls are unheard – and are dealing with grueling challenges and extreme inequalities. Girls Discovered uses data from various sources, including UNICEF, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization, to show the prevalence of issues according to country. Among the statistics:

  • In Niger, nearly 80 percent of young women aged 20-24 have no formal education; by comparison 64 percent of young men have no formal education.
  • In Mali, only 22.5 percent of girls aged 15-24 are literate, while 36.1 percent of boys are literate.
  • In Somalia, 98 percent of women and adolescent girls aged 15-49 have undergone genital cutting or other mutilation. In Bangladesh, more than a third of young women currently aged 20-24 had their first child before they were 15; in Niger, 27.7 percent of young women aged 20-24 had their first child before they were 15.
  • In Ethiopia, there is a 1.5 percent chance that a woman who is giving birth will have skilled personnel attend her labor. In the United Kingdom, there is a one percent chance that a woman will not have a skilled attendant overseeing her labor.
  • In Swaziland, 22.6 percent of girls and women aged 15-24 are HIV-positive, the world’s highest percentage among young women. Lesotho has the highest global prevalence of HIV among young men aged 15-24 years – at 5.9 percent.

Girls Discovered puts extensive data on girls and women in one place and allows visitors to compare data sets. Want to know how literacy rates correspond with the prevalence of FGM? You can map that data:


Visit Girls Discovered to create your own maps and learn more about the issues facing teen girls worldwide.

Remembering Three Powerful Leaders Lost in Haiti

By Teen Voices editorial intern Michelle Golden

Even before the devastating earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, the country was struggling to forge a hopeful future. On January 20, three leaders in the women’s movement in Haiti were proclaimed dead as a result of the quake. Myriam Merlet, Magalie Marcelin, and Anne Marie Coriolan were three innovative leading women who empowered other women by peacefully negotiating against violence and establishing rape as a crime in Haiti — a crime that was prevalent before it was made punishable.

According to CNN’s Jessica Ravitz, Merlet, 53, was the chief of staff of Haiti’s Ministry for Gender and the Rights of Women, established in 1995. Also the founder of Enfofamn, an organization that works towards raising awareness about women through media, Merlet often made an effort to get streets named after Haitian women.

Marcelin was another well-known activist, as well as an actress and lawyer. Known for establishing the women’s rights organization Kay Fanm, which focuses specifically on domestic violence, Marcelin helped women in need by offering shelter and services to domestic violence victims.

Coriolan founded the advocacy and services organization Solidarite Fanm Ayisye, or Solidarity with Haitian Women. She was acknowledged as the top advisor of the women’s rights ministry.

These inspiring leaders fought with pride to establish equality for Haitian women. We have them, and Haiti, in our hearts.

Report Shows Violence Against Girls and Women On the Rise In Network TV Storylines

By Teen Voices editorial intern Ally Betker

Storylines depicting violence against females are increasing according to a report released by the Parents Television Council last month. The PTC’s report, Women in Peril: A Look at TV’s Disturbing New Storyline Trend, examined female victimizations on prime time broadcast television and found that violence against women is being shown more graphically and in ways never before seen on television.

PTC President Tim Winter said, “…by depicting violence against women with increasing frequency, or as a trivial, even humorous matter, the broadcast networks may ultimately be contributing to a desensitized atmosphere in which people view aggression and violence directed at women as normative, even acceptable.”

The report found that there was a significant increase in all forms of female victimization: an increase in the depiction of teen girls as victims; in the use of female victimization as a punch line in comedy series; and in the depiction of intimate partner violence.

Some of the report’s major findings include:

  • Every network but ABC demonstrated a significant increase in the number of storylines that included violence against women between 2004 and 2009.
  • Although female victims were primarily of adult age, collectively, there was a 400% increase in the depiction of teen girls as victims across all networks from 2004 to 2009
  • Fox stood out for using violence against women as a punch line in its comedies — in particular Family Guy and American Dad — trivializing the gravity of the issue of violence against women.

PTC Director of Communications and Public Education Melissa Henson said, “We all must pay attention to the fact that this is a problem in our society. Children are influenced by what they see on TV and that certainly includes media violence.”

To read more about the Parent Television Council’s report, click here, and visit for more articles on women and the media.