AWARE® Prevention Initiative

By Marli Abramowitz, AWARE® Intern

When I think back to my years at camp, I remember getting to take a step back from the stresses in life to enjoy a summer filled with fun and exciting times. Camp was a close and tight-knit environment where I felt safe, secure, and happy. I felt a special bond with my camp friends and close to my counselors.  That level of comfort and closeness is one of the benefits of a camp community for both staff and campers. However, it is important to recognize the difficulties of such an environment for dating, especially when it comes to unhealthy relationships.

Here are a few things to consider about unhealthy relationship dynamics in camp’s unique environment.

Feeling Trapped:

Someone in an unhealthy relationship may feel trapped in that relationship while they’re at camp which influences the choices they feel they do or do not have. They may not feel like they can break up with their partner since in an enclosed camp community they will likely have to continue to see them every day. They may also fear that their partner’s abusive behavior will escalate after breaking up but they’ll have no way to avoid them while still at camp.

Technology (or lack thereof):

During camp,access to technology can be very limited due to camp policies. However, it’s still important to recognize and understand the role that technology can play in abusive relationships. Campers and staff may arrive at camp in relationships from home or leave camp in a relationship that technology is introduced into when they return home. A warning sign at camp that someone may be experiencing technological abuse is when they won’t turn off or put away their phone or has an extreme reaction to those requests in fear of how their partner will respond if they don’t answer texts and calls.

Trusted Adults:

Without a familiar adult figure present, campers may be unsure of who to turn to if they are in an abusive relationship. It is important that campers identify trusted adults such as counselors, social workers, nurses, or camp directors they can talk to if they need support.

From Camp to School:

Abusive relationships can begin before or during camp, and may continue after camp. The change in environment from home to camp, or vice versa, may introduce or remove elements like technology, distance, school, and parents, that could cause the relationship dynamic to change or the abuse to escalate. Learn the warning signs of dating abuse so you’ll recognize when a teen in your life needs.

A positive benefit of the unique camp environment is the opportunity provided to educate and raise awareness about dating abuse among staff and campers. The safe space for discussion and learning created within camp communities is why AWARE® facilitators always enjoy our summer workshops and trainings. To review important information shared in those workshops about recognizing the warning signs of abuse and how to help yourself or a friend, visit the Get Help section of the JCADA website.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or dating abuse, please contact JCADA for support on our confidential helpline: 1-877-88-JCADA(52232).

By Arielle Aboulafia, AWARE® Intern

June is LGBTQ Pride Month and all over the world people are celebrating their solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Throughout the month, victims of hate-based crimes are honored and broader society reflects on how we can promote social and civil equality for all. However, missing from these conversations is how we can support members of the LGBTQ community experiencing violence within their own homes and relationships.

Despite domestic and dating violence occurring in every community and in all kinds of relationships, there is a misconception that intimate partner violence isn’t as prevalent in the LGBTQ community. Since same-sex relationships don’t have the gender inequality dynamic that exists in the stereotypical image of domestic violence that includes a male abuser and female victim, there is also a misconception that when abuse occurs in a same-sex relationship, it is not as severe or dangerous.1 These are especially important myths to dispel when examining the prevalence of dating violence among LGBTQ youth. 

According to an Urban Institute Study released in 2013, LGBTQ teens surveyed reported increased rates of victimization and perpetration in all categories of teen dating violence (cyber dating abuse, physical dating violence, psychological dating violence, and sexual coercion) than among their heterosexual peers. The rate of physical dating violence victimization for LGB teens was 42.8%, compared to 29.0% among heterosexual teens. The highest rate of victimization was among transgender youth, with 88.9% reporting physical dating violence.2

  • Shame: Whether it be from one’s own internalized homophobia or that created by an unaccepting community, shame about one’s sexual orientation can be common among members of the LGBTQ community. In a same-sex relationship, an abusive partner may attempt to use the victim’s preexisting feelings of shame or guilt about their sexuality to demean, isolate, and control them.
  • Fear of nonbelief: It can be common for LGBTQ individuals in abusive relationships to fear that people may not believe them when they disclose the abuse. In part due to the pervasive misconceptions about intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community, individuals may worry that their claims won’t be taken seriously.
  • Fear of “outing”: Despite being in an LGBTQ relationship, one or both of the partners may not be publicly “out” yet. The threat of outing or disclosing an LGBTQ person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, without their consent, is a tactic used by abusers to maintain power and control over their partner. This is especially true for teens who may have only recently discovered or accepted their sexual identity and fear ridicule and rejection from their peers or family.
  • Lack of support system: An LGBTQ teen in an abusive relationship may be part of a traditional, religious,or socially conservative family or community that they fear judgement and rejection from should they disclose their LGBTQ relationship. They may feel that they cannot seek help without the risk of losing those closest to them.

In recognition of these and other barriers LGBTQ teens may face in getting help for an abusive relationship, AWARE® is always working to ensure our program content is inclusive. Our core workshop, It’s Not Love®, includes same-sex relationships in its interactive introductory activity that has participants take on the identity of characters in abusive relationships and leads into a discussion of warning signs of abuse, the cycle of abuse, and how to help themselves or a friend. During the debrief discussion that follows, facilitators are mindful to refer to “dating partners” as to address all combinations of teen relationships. We further highlight that JCADA’s clinical support services are available to all members of the Greater Washington DC community,ages 14 and up, without regard to race, national origin, ability, background,faith, gender, or sexual orientation.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or dating abuse, please contact JCADA for support on our confidential helpline: 1-877-88-JCADA (52232). 

For additional support resources specifically for the LGBTQ community, see below.

The Anti-Violence Project 

Hotline (Bilingual, 24/7): 212-714-1124

LGBT National Help Center

Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743)

The Trevor Project

Hotline (24/7):1-866-488-7386

Text Line: Text “Trevor”to 1-202-304-1200

1 "LGBTQ Issues in Teen Dating Violence." National Judicial Education Program, a project of Legal Momentum.

2 Janine M. Zweig, Ph.D., Meredith Dank, Ph.D.,Pamela Lachman, Jennifer Yahner. "Technology, Teen Dating Violence and Abuse, and Bullying." Urban Institute Justice Policy Center.

February may be Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, but AWARE®’s Teen Advisory Board spends every month of the year doing their part to prevent dating abuse and promote healthy relationships for their peers. The board gets together for monthly meetings to discuss current events, how to raise awareness about teen dating abuse and how to educate teens about the warning signs of abuse and how to help themselves or their friends get help. We asked two of our Teen Advisory Board superstars why they joined and how they want to make an impact in their communities.

Why did you join the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board? 

Rachel Loewy: Before joining the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board, I participated in an It’s Not Love® workshop and interned at JCADA. While interning, I often read about how common teen dating abuse is, but it’s hard to really grasp unless you hear personal stories about it. By spending a couple of hours a month with my peers discussing dating abuse, I further understood just how widespread of an issue it is and how prevalent it is in our own community.

Emma Thoms: Ever since I participated in an It’s Not Love® workshop at camp, I have carried the AWARE® card with the signs of abusive relationships with me everywhere. I feel very strongly about the importance of healthy relationships and the need for everyone to know the warning signs and the dangers of an abusive relationship. Being involved with the AWARE® Teen Advisory Board gives me the opportunity to learn more and feel confident educating others.

What are three qualities you think are essential in healthy relationships? 

ET: One is that you both are able to give each other space and are not completely dependent on each other. Second is that when conflict comes up, you are both able to talk it through and compromise. Lastly, you both communicate and honor each other’s boundaries and have a mutual understanding that you will respect each other's limits.

How do you plan to raise awareness during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month? 

RL: I want to raise more awareness with my peers by engaging them in a discussion about teen dating abuse. A lot of high schoolers think of abuse as just physical and as a man hitting a woman, but it can also be verbal, emotional, technological, sexual or financial. It also affects both men and women and can happen in same-sex relationships, too. 

ET: I’m going to talk to my friends about what I’ve learned and use social media to spread the word!

To learn more about Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, follow @AWARENow or visit