BACKGROUND: Domestic violence is an issue that has been plaguing the international community since the dawn of time. In the United States alone, one in four women and one in nine men experience domestic violence annually, and in a recent study conducted by the Worldwide Health Organization (WHO), the organization found that thirty percent of women worldwide have experienced some form of domestic violence from their partner. One group that has been overlooked in the fight to end domestic violence is teenagers. Each year, 1.5 million teenage girls in the United States are victims of physical abuse from their partner, and 33% of American adolescents are victims of sexual, mental, or physical abuse from their partner. As a teenager, the circumstances surrounding domestic violence are often different than cases involving adults. High school is an environment in which rumors, social groups, bullying, and peer pressure all play a role in domestic violence; whether or not a victim comes out with their story could be entirely dependent on the environment of the high school they go to. Furthermore, teens are often less likely to be taken seriously if they do decide to come out with their story, as many adults and other teens believe in the idea of “kids will be kids” or make other excuses to condone the abuse. If a survivor does choose to get help, the process is entirely up to them. Whether they would like the abuser to receive jail time, whether they want a restraining order, or if they just want help to move forward, this is entirely dependent on the teen’s wishes- but these can be influenced by their parents. Whether or not a parent gives their support to their child throughout this process is key to a survivor’s desire to come forward or seek repercussions for their abuser. While the current systems in place do a solid job of helping survivors regain control of their life, there remains little mental health initiatives within schools or women’s shelters to help teenagers heal from their trauma. This project will use concepts learned in positive psychology to find the best way to help teen domestic abuse survivors cope and heal. 

SO… WHAT DO WE MEAN BY POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY CONCEPTS?

Gratitude practices will be used as a way of healing, as survivors will ask themselves the question of what they are grateful for and slowly understand they are more than just their trauma. 

My Response: Trying to get people to open up is hard. However, creating a community in which people who have shared experiences increases the likelihood of someone opening up. Thus, my proposal is to create “workshops” in schools across Miami that are available to students who are survivors of DV. Formalized workshops with concrete steps would impart that notion upon the teens that one must complete certain “steps” in order to heal, which I want to steer clear of. Thus, the format of the workshop will be similar to that of NA or AA meetings. Survivors are allowed to come up and tell their stories or their current state regarding their abuse, and the other individuals listen along. However, what will be different is that at the beginning of the workshop, there will be a detailed explanation of the concepts being applied. As individuals share their experiences, there will be a moment in between to figure out what gratitude practice they find most appealing and how to incorporate PERMA into their daily life. My hope is that as the meeting goes on, people will better understand the things being taught and jump into these conversations to help their peers. It will be a form of group healing, where we help each individual decide what is most important to them and how the positive psychology concepts can be applied to help their specific situation. At the end of the workshop, resources will be handed out, such as pamphlets on PERMA or gratitude, materials that may be necessary for gratitude practices such as a mug, pens, journals, lists of small acts of kindness one can perform, meditation tips, etc.

  • “For young people, violence is so common in media, in fictional things, in the real world… they don’t think it’s a big deal oftentimes. ” – Brenda Rivera, senior attorney at Dade Legal Aid in the Domestic Violence Department.

Conclusion: Teenagers are stubborn. It is almost a requirement of being one. However, once a teenager goes to an adult, a law enforcement official, a women’s shelter, etc, this is a call for help, and they will often be willing to accept any form of it to help them get back on their feet. There are many misconceptions with trauma, and not just related to domestic abuse. People think that once justice is served the victim will find closure, or that therapy is the only way to help a person heal. We as a society must do our best to disprove these notions if we are to grant survivors sufficient resources to assist in the healing process. For teens, it begins in schools. The workshop proposal is merely a step in the process of destigmatizing abuse. Open conversations about abuse must be held in high schools, and proper guidelines must be outlined to make clear that abusive relationships are not condoned by the school and should be dealt with properly. Below are a few resources that can help you better understand the signs of abuse, as well as hotline numbers.

Resources: 

I would love to hear your feedback on this presentation, both supportive and constructive. I also have outlined a few questions for you all to answer. You can either use the comments section or this google form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSee-kZxpw8bpfiy_JKbyllf_70eh0z4_OnGkNr_gSPSbNN4sw/viewform?usp=pp_url

  1. How will you apply what you have learned about signs of DV in teens to your life?
  2. Do you think there are things you learned in your class that can be applied to this topic?
  3. How has your understanding of toxic relationships, both romantic and non-romantic, changed as a result of this project?

WORKS CITED: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Nf6mLrYrpXr-r84XRlnAjgMolasy7__lPd-MHp9jjI8/edit?usp=sharing

1 comment

  1. Hi Maya! First of all, thank you for being brave enough to look into such a horrifying issue. Domestic violence lives underground and without people like you, actively raising your voice about it, its presence often eludes our knowledge. I absolutely agree with your response– creating a safe space, a “workshop” for survivors to recover in is essential. Support and building a community outside of their abuser’s reach is so important and I’m glad you recognized this. Just one thing– I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I scroll down, the picture up top covers half the page… just thought I’d mention that! Anyways, fantastic project Maya, great job!

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