Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships

By Futures Without Violence

The Start Strong initiative works to prevent teen dating violence and abuse by stressing that “middle school matters.” It models how to bring together a whole community to teach 11 to 14-year-olds about healthy relationships and prevent teen dating violence. Start Strong is the largest initiative to take this approach and was tested in 11 communities from 2008 - 2012. The Start Strong website includes a broad range of inspiration, resources and links to other successful Start Strong programs.

Beliefs Behind the Initiative

  • Middle school is a key time to engage youth in prevention efforts. See why.
  • Teen mentors and peers are crucial to prevention efforts. Youth-informed and youth-led programs are needed to build healthy teen relationships.
  • Parents, teachers, mentors and other adults play a critical role in helping young people to understand healthy relationships.
  • Community-based approaches are essential and schools play a main part in young people's lives.

Public Health Approach

Start Strong takes a public health approach to preventing teen dating violence and abuse. It is based on 4 Elements of Success
1. Educating Middle School Students. The Safe Dates curriculum features lectures, student activities and peer mentoring during and after school. The Fourth R curriculum works well with school educational requirements.

2. Engaging Communities. Start Strong educates and engages teen influencers such as parents and caregivers, older teens, teachers and other mentors. Webinars and resources give strategies for talking to younger teens early and often about the importance of healthy relationships.

3. Changing School Policies. The website includes tips and model policies for student, staff and parent involvement, to create positive school climates. As a result, healthy relationships are valued and violence prevention is promoted.

4. Exploiting Social Marketing. Start Strong uses social media to reach teens online to spread the message that relationship violence and abuse should never be tolerated. Start Strong programs also connect to teens through TV, movies, music, and video games.

For a more detailed review or ideas for implementation please contact a member of the primary prevention team at 1-800-932-4632.

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