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  • Kelsey Erwin

SafeU: The Benefits of Learning about TDV in the Classroom

Below is a guest post written by Kelly, this year's MSW intern with our Community Outreach and Advocacy Programs.

February is Teen Dating Violence (TDV) Awareness Month. Part of Sojourner’s mission is to educate for the prevention and elimination of domestic violence. A big part of our fulfillment of that mission is with our program, SafeU. SafeU provides an evidence-informed and experiential learning-based curriculum about TDV and healthy relationships. SafeU lessons are provided to our community at both the middle and high school levels. As the Masters of Social Work intern at Sojourner this year, I have been lucky to observe and co-present SafeU lessons alongside my amazing teammates. I have seen firsthand how impactful having these lessons in the classroom can be. 

TDV: It Happens

The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey from 2019 found that about 1 in 12 teens experienced physical dating violence or sexual dating violence. Even if teens themselves haven’t experienced domestic violence, they may witness it happen to their friends or family members. SafeU provides age-appropriate lessons to teens at a pivotal time in their lives, when they are starting to form or think about relationships. Whether or not they are dating or want to date, every teen at least knows someone in a relationship. This makes it all the more important to provide domestic violence education at this age level. Teens can learn about resources such as Sojourner and, both of which provide free and confidential services to anyone with concerns about domestic violence. The latter specializes in TDV specifically and has many ways for teens to connect with a live expert via phone or online. Teens do not have to disclose any personal stories in the classroom (we never ask!), but if TDV or domestic violence is something that is affecting them, they now have resources they can contact later privately for help.

If They Don’t Learn About it in the Classroom, Where Will They?

There are plenty of sources of information about relationships out in the world. Parents, friends, teachers, the media, the list goes on. Undoubtedly, some teens already have a good understanding of what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like. Some have heard of places like Sojourner. But not everyone receives the same education or messaging about TDV and relationships. SafeU’s lessons introduce the signs of TDV, allow teens to brainstorm what their own personal values are, co-create ideas of what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like, and give teens a chance to use those ideas with interactive scenarios in small and large groups. Whether or not the information is brand new to them or a refresher on what they already know, SafeU ensures every teen in the classroom is equipped with resources and education to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from harm. Plus, it never hurts to hear this information more than once! 

Each Teen is Unique, and Every SafeU Session is, Too

Because of the interactive nature of our SafeU lessons, each time we go into the classroom the conversation and activities look different. Each lesson is shaped by what the students contribute!  This also allows teens who might know more about TDV and healthy/unhealthy relationships to share their knowledge with their peers. And teens who are newer to these ideas still contribute some amazing and intelligent ideas to the discussion! Learning from and alongside their peers is more impactful than listening to a lecture from a few guest speakers. It also makes them feel empowered, as they are the ones coming up with the great ideas, not us!

SafeU is Actually Fun!

The topic of TDV can be heavy. We don’t shy away from the difficult truths that come with learning about it. But we do try to make the learning part fun. We always ask for feedback from the students and change our lessons based on their input. One of the most loved activities, called Behavior Flags, encourages everyone in the classroom to express their thoughts and keep their hands busy while they hold up their flags. It usually comes with engaging discussion and some laughter, too.

Overall, SafeU lessons are a unique opportunity for students to learn important life skills and interact with their peers. Each student leaves SafeU lessons knowing about the resources that exist to help them stay safe in their relationships. We are honored to be invited into the schools we partner with and for me personally, it’s been a highlight of my social work education so far!

For more information on SafeU or if you are in Western Hennepin County and would like to request a SafeU presentation, email or call 952-351-4062.


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