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Bullying prevention research network secures funding to tackle teen dating violence

PREVNet to train teachers how to identify dating violence and promote healthy relationships.

Wendy Craig, Head of Psychology, Queen’s University.

Leading national violence prevention network PREVNet has been awarded a $550,000, two and a half year contract with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to evaluate how best to educate teachers and teachers-in-training about teen dating violence and healthy relationships.

PREVNet, or the Promoting Relationships and Eliminating Violence Network, was co-founded by Wendy Craig, Head of Psychology at Queen’s University and Debra Pepler, York University, and includes 130 leading scientists and 62 national youth-serving organizations who are working collectively to stop bullying in Canada.

“Students, parents, teachers, school administrators, and community agencies have a shared responsibility to promote positive relationships, prevent dating violence, and create healthy school climates,” says Dr. Craig. “With this new funding we will be co-creating resources with educators to help them prepare for these challenging situations so that they are equipped to help students navigate complicated interpersonal issues.”

From March 2018 to March 2020, PHAC funding will support four PREVNet projects designed to build educators’ capacity to address dating violence while on the job, as well as in specific cultural settings in provinces across the country. In a 2015 Canadian study, 51 per cent of victims aged 15 to 19 years, and 46 per cent of victims aged 20 to 24 years, were victimized by a current dating partner. These age groups were also more often victimized by former dating partners.

“As part of our first two projects, teachers will be receiving training to enhance their understanding, capacity, competence, and skills to address dating violence and promote healthy relationships,” says Dr. Craig. “Through these activities we will also be focused on identifying factors that will lead to successful integration of these strategies into their teaching practices.

Projects three and four will expand upon the training content developed, implemented, and honed in the first two projects, so it can be applied nationally and across cultural contexts.

“Project three will aim to co-create recommendations for culturally-appropriate training programs for educators in Indigenous communities, particularly in the Canadian North,” says Dr. Craig. “From there, the fourth project will involve creating free, evidence-based resources to assist educators, and to disseminate them through a national social media campaign.”

All four projects will cover critical subject areas, including: risk factors for gender-based violence in adolescent relationships; mental health; communication; conflict resolution; personal and interpersonal boundaries; victim blaming attitudes; the role of media and social norms; dominance, power, and privilege; the role of peers and of media; and more.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Craig and her co-director Dr. Pepler, PREVNet has implemented innovative and effective initiatives designed to make our communities and schools safe, happy, and healthy spaces for our children to grow and flourish,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research), Queen’s University. “On behalf of Queen’s I want to congratulate her and her team on securing new funding from the PHAC that will help the network continue this truly invaluable work.”

The new funding was announced by Canada’s Minister of Health today.

“The Government of Canada is proud to support innovative capacity-building projects for professionals working with youth,” says The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, Government of Canada. “Equipping educators so that they can help youth develop the skills they need to have healthy relationships is one way that we can address and prevent gender-based violence, and foster positive mental health among young Canadians.”

Learn more about PREVNet and its programs on their website.