Teen Relationship Violence is a Hidden Epidemic in Canada

Canadian Women's Foundation says education programs critical to ending dating violence

TORONTO, Feb. 21, 2012 /CNW/ - Canadian teens are experiencing dating violence in record numbers and need help to stay safer. Canadian Women's Foundation, Canada's public foundation for women and girls, is raising funds and investing in teen healthy relationship programs across Canada, where youth will learn how to stop the violence - for good.

"Dating violence is a frightening reality for Canadian teens from coast to coast to coast," states Dr. Claire Crooks, Canadian Women's Foundation Board Member and a lead developer and researcher of the Canadian Women's Foundation funded Fourth R, a healthy relationship-based program aimed at preventing violence and related risk behaviours in adolescents. "When we look at the glorification of violence against women in popular culture and the peer dynamics of adolescents, it is not surprising that jealousy and control can been seen as signs of devotion and caring, not abuse."

Canadian Women's Foundation has invested in teen school-based and community healthy relationship programs for more than 15 years, and has recently received funding from Status of Women Canada to develop a national learning strategy on teen healthy relationships. In the teen healthy relationship programs, skills are taught through a combination of classroom work and discussion that draw on healthy relationship foundations, boundary setting, gender stereotypes, preventing dating violence and assertive communication.  Many of the programs incorporate important leadership opportunities for teens to co-facilitate the program.

"Working with teens to focus on violence prevention is critical to make a long term impact on ending abuse in Canada" says Beverley Wybrow, CEO of the Canadian Women's Foundation. "By investing in programs that teach boys and girls how to recognize the signs of abuse and how to get help, we are providing them with the tools that create healthy relationships and allow them to make safe choices throughout their lifetime. We believe these programs should be in every single high school in Canada."

Teen healthy relationship programs are transforming both relationships and school cultures. A recent evaluation of programs funded by the Canadian Women's Foundation, conducted by Dr. Leslie Tutty of the University of Calgary, revealed that 90 percent of students said the programs taught them how to keep their relationships healthy, even years after leaving school. More than 60 percent said that the programs influenced their choice in partners, or helped them decide to leave an unhealthy relationship.

"The program helped me learn how to recognize healthy and unhealthy relationships and how to overcome possible problems and issues that could lead to an unhealthy relationship. I now feel more comfortable with my surroundings and more confident that I will make responsible and healthy decisions throughout the future," states grade 11 student, Hannah Gillis. Hannah took part in the school-based, Canadian Women's Foundation funded, Healthy Relationships for Youth program in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

On Feb 22nd-25th, 2012, the Canadian Women's Foundation is holding the first national teen healthy relationship event of its size - the National Skills Institute on Teen Healthy Relationship Programming in Toronto. This three day event will bring together youth leaders, community experts, teachers, school administrators and policy makers from across the nation to learn about best practices and develop new program strategies for teen healthy relationship programs as a violence prevention strategy in Canada. The Skills Institute is part of a larger Canadian Women's Foundation national learning strategy on teen healthy relationships, funded by Status of Women Canada.

About Canadian Women's Foundation

The Canadian Women's Foundation is Canada's public foundation for women and girls. We empower women and girls in Canada to move out of violence, out of poverty and into confidence. Since 1991, we've raised money and invested in over 1,100 community programs across Canada, and are now one of the ten largest women's foundations in the world. We take a positive approach to address root causes of the most critical issues facing women and girls. We study and share the best ways to create long-term change and bring community organizations together for training and to learn from each other. We carefully select and fund the programs with the strongest outcomes and regularly evaluate their work. We have a special focus on building a community of women helping other women. Helping women creates safer families and communities, and a more prosperous society for all of us. We invest in the power of women and the dreams of girls. For more information please visit www.canadianwomen.org

Editors Note: When referring to the Canadian Women's Foundation, please use the full name. Please do not abbreviate or use acronyms.

SOURCE Canadian Women's Foundation

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