White House and Secretary Duncan Cite Wellesley Teen Dating Violence Research in VAWA and DOE Communications

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The White House issued a resource sheet focused on the Violence Against Women Act earlier this month and the U.S. DOE about the Department's efforts to support the prevention of teen dating violence and other forms of gender-based violence--both cited teen dating violence intervention research undertaken by the Wellesley Centers for Women and NORC at the University of Chicago.

Teens holding hands

The interventions increased student knowledge not just about laws, but also the consequences of dating violence and sexual harassment.

The White House this month issued a resource sheet focused on the Violence Against Women Act. Shifting Boundaries, an intervention and evaluation by Bruce Taylor, Ph.D., Nan Stein, Ed.D., Dan Woods, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Mumford, Ph.D., and funded by The National Institute of Justice, was listed as one of the two research resources. The study examines the impact of a dating violence prevention program for middle school students in a large urban school district. Researchers concluded that a comprehensive school program was effective in reducing dating violence and sexual harassment.

"Shifting Boundaries helps schools clearly define boundaries so that students and school personnel more easily assess what are appropriate and inappropriate behaviors," says Stein, a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College who co-directed the research. "The interventions increased student knowledge not just about laws, but also the consequences of dating violence and sexual harassment."

While tremendous progress has been made since the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first enacted, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are still significant problems facing women, families, and communities. The White House notes that the new VAWA bill signed into law in early March will continue effective programs, make targeted expansions to address the needs of especially vulnerable populations, and help prevent violence in future generations. The White House resource sheet is available online.

Previously, on February 28th, the U.S. Department of Education issued a Letter to Chief State School Officers about the Department's efforts to support the prevention of teen dating violence and other forms of gender-based violence, and requesting immediate action to reduce gender-based violence in schools and to help ensure all students are safe. The Shifting Boundaries intervention and evaluation was cited as evidence that research shows that schools can make a difference in preventing teen violence and other forms of gender-based violence.

"It's important for educators to know is that this intervention can be easily implemented in schools," notes Taylor, principal research scientist with NORC at the University of Chicago, who co-directed the study. "The component of the program which focused solely on the physical building reduced victimization and perpetration of physical and sexual dating violence by nearly 50 percent six months after the intervention."

Stein and Taylor shared findings in an October 2011 seminar posted online, "Shifting Boundaries: Findings from a Youth Dating Violence Prevention Program Evaluation in NYC Middle Schools".

Nan Stein is a senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women where she directs several national research projects on sexual harassment, gender violence, and bullying in schools. The Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW) is one of the largest gender-focused research-and-action organizations in the world. Scholars at the Centers conduct social science research and evaluation, develop theory and publications, and implement training and action programs on issues that put women’s lives and women’s concerns at the center. Since 1974, WCW’s work has generated changes in attitudes, practices, and public policy.

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