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Step 1: School Policy Kit Step 2: Safe Dates Step 3: Ending Violence Step 4: Speak.Act.Change
Safe Dates

Step 2: Educate Students with an Evidence-based Dating Violence Program

Safe Dates


The goals of Safe Dates are

  • To raise student awareness of what constitutes healthy and abusive dating
  • To raise student awareness of dating abuse and its causes and consequences
  • To equip students with the skills and resources to help themselves or friends in abusive dating relationships
  • To equip students with the skills to develop healthy dating relationships, including positive communication, anger management, and conflict resolution.

For additional program information, please download these files (PDF):

Once your school has a solid policy in place to address dating violence, you can begin educating your student body using Safe Dates, an evidence-based adolescent dating abuse prevention program.

Highly engaging and interactive, Safe Dates helps teens recognize the difference between caring, supportive relationships and controlling, manipulative, or abusive dating relationships.

Safe Dates is the only evidence-based curriculum that prevents dating abuse: a factor often linked to alcohol and other drug use.

Safe Dates:

  • Works as a prevention and intervention tool
  • Has strong outcomes even after four years
  • Is proven effective with boys as well as girls
  • Addresses both teens who abuse and teens who are abused
  • Acknowledges that either gender could play either role.

Safe Dates includes:

  • a 10-session, interactive and engaging curriculum
  • an evidence-based family program that includes student/parent booklets for at-home discussions of dating violence
  • a poster contest
  • a school play
  • English and Spanish language versions of all parent materials

All the materials needed to implement the program are included in the Safe Dates manual and its companion CD-ROM. Safe Dates can be used as a dating abuse prevention tool for both male and female middle and high school students. Safe Dates would fit well within a health education, family life skills or general life skills curriculum.

What Sets Safe Dates Apart?

  • Designated as a Model Program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
  • Proven to show a 56% to 92% decrease in physical and sexual dating violence

Safe Dates Research

Safe Dates is an evidence-based program with strong, long-term outcomes. It was the subject of substantial formative research in fourteen public schools in North Carolina using a rigorous experimental design. The program was found to be effective in both preventing and reducing perpetration among teens already using violence against their dates.
Adolescents participating in the program, as compared with those who did not participate, also reported:

  • less acceptance of dating violence
  • stronger communication and anger management skills
  • less gender stereotyping
  • greater awareness of community services for dating abuse

Researchers studied the same group of students four years after implementation and found that students who participated in the Safe Dates program reported 56 percent to 92 percent less physical, serious physical, and sexual dating violence victimization and perpetration than teens who did not participate in Safe Dates. The program has been found to be equally effective for males and females and for whites and non-whites.

About the Authors

Vangie Foshee, Ph.D.

Dr. Vangie Foshee is a tenured associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research focus is on adolescent problem behaviors and includes both etiological and evaluation research.

Her etiological research has included identifying determinants, at multiple ecological levels, of violence between adolescent dating couples, adolescent cigarette smoking and alcohol use and adolescent sexual behavior. She has a particular interest in testing biopsychosocial models of adolescent health risk behaviors, especially models examining the influence of interactions between biological factors such as genotypes and hormones and contextual variables on health risk behaviors. Her evaluation research has included the development and evaluation of programs for preventing adolescent dating abuse and adolescent substance use.

Stacey Langwick, Ph.D.

Dr. Stacey Langwick is an assistant professor at the University of Florida and holds a joint appointment with the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research.

Ten Sessions

Safe Dates targets attitudes and behaviors associated with dating abuse and violence. Each of the 10 sessions is about 50 minutes in length. Safe Dates can be flexibly scheduled (e.g. daily or weekly sessions). Reproducible student handouts are included at the end of each session.

Session 1: Defining Caring Relationships: A bingo game and class discussions introduce students to the program. They evaluate how they would like to be treated in dating relationships.

Session 2: Defining Dating Abuse: Through the discussion of scenarios and the review of statistics, students clearly define dating abuse.

Session 3: Why Do People Abuse: During group discussions and the review of scenarios, students identify the causes and consequences of dating abuse.

Session 4: How to Help Friends: Students learn why it is difficult to leave abusive relationships and how to help a friend if she or he is in an abusive relationship.

Session 5: Helping Friends: Students practice effective skills for helping friends who are abused or confronting friends who are abusing.

Session 6: Overcoming Gender Stereotypes: A writing exercise, small-group discussions and scenarios help students learn about gender stereotypes and how these stereotypes can affect dating relationships.

Session 7: How We Feel, How We Deal: Through the use of a feelings diary and a discussion of "hot buttons," students learn effective ways to recognize and handle their anger, so it doesn't lead to abusive behavior.

Session 8: Equal Power through Communication: Students learn the four skills for effective communication and practice these skills in a variety of role-plays.

Session 9: Preventing Dating Sexual Abuse: A quiz, analysis of scenarios and a discussion with peers help students learn about the issue of dating sexual abuse and how to prevent it.

Session 10: Reviewing the Safe Dates Program: Through discussion, evaluation and a poster contest, students will review the safes dates program.

Dating Abuse Play

The Safe Dates program includes a 45-minute play about dating abuse and violence, which was written by high-school drama students. After the performance, the actors lead discussions with the audience about the issues presented in the play.

Poster Contest

Hosting a poster contest is a great way to reinforce the concepts learned in the curriculum. Posters on the theme of dating abuse prevention can be displayed in school hallways or other community buildings such as libraries, city hall, community centers and shopping malls.

Parent Materials

Included with the curriculum is an evidence-based family program, consisting of booklets that parents and their children work through together. All parent materials are provided in English and Spanish.

© 2016 Hazelden Foundation