The 630 | Tough Love

February 2018 View more

According to senior prevention educator Tikiya Young, the recent spate of high-profile sexual abuse accusations has made Family Shelter Services’ (FSS) Teen Dating Violence Prevention program even more relevant. The program educates young people, including local high school students, about potential abusive situations so they can be avoided in the years ahead.

“Early on [certain behaviors] look like annoying behavior or something everyone has to deal with,” she says. “But on the back end it can become sexual abuse. If there was more education in schools, entire generations of kids could learn how to deal with problems in the future.”

FSS currently offers the program in 60 percent of high schools in DuPage County, including Naperville’s Neuqua Valley High School, where the prevention team’s presentation about dating violence and healthy relationships took place recently over three days. Teens have the opportunity to ask questions anonymously and role play abusive situations. Male and female presenters visit classrooms at the same time, modeling positive interactions between men and women for the teens.

“Social media has a lot to do with growing problems. There’s a lot of negativity online, which normalizes behavior,” Young says. “In one exercise we show a girl hitting a boy. Kids often don’t recognize that as a problem. Guys tend to shake it off, but if a guy hits a girl they are up in arms. There’s a lot of emotional abuse, too, that leaves scars like isolation and lack of trust.”

Since its inception four years ago, the Prevention Program for teens has reached 16,000 middle and high school students. FSS’s goal is for the program to be included in the schools’ curriculum, rather than as an after-school elective.

For more information on FSS programs, visit or call 630.221.8290. A confidential hotline for those experiencing abuse is also available; call 630.469.5650.