Washington Coalition Empowers Teens to Have Healthy Relationships

In their shoes: teens and dating violence.In 2004, a Washington State teen was murdered by her ex-boyfriend just before she was to graduate from high school. Devastated by their loss, her parents connected with the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) to explore how they might turn their grief into action and prevent this from happening to other teens. The result was In Their Shoes: Teens and Dating Violence, a scenario-based training for adults who work or interact with teens. It shows what dating is like for today’s teens, from their perspective.

“Our goal is to make a difference in the lives of others,” said the young woman’s mother. “I feel that my daughter did what she thought was right, but many people that she went to for advice needed more knowledge. It is my hope that when people experience In Their Shoes they get more information about what to look and listen for.”

In Their Shoes allows participants to become one of six teen characters. They make choices about their relationships and move through unique scenarios by reading about interactions with their dating partner, family, friends, police, counselors, and others. Characters are based on the experiences of real teens, such as sexting, pregnancy, homophobia, and stalking.

Given the overwhelmingly positive response to In Their Shoes, WSCADV released In Their Shoes: Teens and Dating Violence—Classroom Edition in 2012. Designed with the classroom in mind, it is an engaging way to talk about dating violence and healthy relationships with young people, and gives teachers everything they need to get the conversation started, including lesson plans for continuing dialogue about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships throughout the school year.

Since being introduced to middle and high school students, the classroom program has received praise from its participants. “It opened my eyes to what my friends are going through,” said one high school senior. Reflecting on the success of In Their Shoes, the mother who supported its development remarked, “My daughter was all about being positive and making changes to improve the lives of others. If just one life is saved by this effort, it will be worth the time and money because my daughter’s legacy will have a chance to live on.”

To learn more about the work of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, visit their website.

To learn more about how the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program support the work of state domestic violence coalitions, read the State and Territorial Domestic Violence Coalition Fact Sheet.