Take a Creative Approach to Dating Violence Prevention with Youth-Friendly ‘Media Challenges’

A young woman holding a video camera.

The Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence faced a dilemma. The Springfield-based coalition of domestic violence agencies wanted to branch into violence prevention, but member agencies were already busy handling everyday crisis intervention.

After coming across another state’s contest encouraging youth to create short videos that raise awareness about dating violence, the coalition decided to run a statewide video challenge (PDF, 431 KB) of their own. The annual contest, which just ended its fourth cycle, receives approximately 45 entries each year in which high school students educate their peers on healthy relationships and how they can say no to violence, says Executive Director Vickie Smith.

Youth-serving organizations can host their own video and media challenges to incorporate teen dating violence prevention into their daily work and form relationships with local high schools, Smith says. Giving youth a forum to express themselves also captures the attention of other teens, who may seek out relationship advice from their friends instead of parents or teachers.

“It's been a long time since I've been in high school, but no adult made any sense to me [back then],” says Smith. “I only believed what came out of the mouth of my peers.”

Youth empowerment also plays a critical role in NativeLove, a project hosted by the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center to encourage youth to define healthy relationships. In 2015, the center hosted a youth media challenge that asked participants to submit videos and photos using the hashtag #NativeLoveIs.

The center, based in Lame Deer, Montana, hopes that youth-led conversations will help spark social change among Native communities impacted by historical trauma. “If we heal this generation, then they are going to be the next generation of parents that'll have healthy relationships,” says Grants Compliance Manager Rebecca Balog.

[See how a bagful of rocks can help Native youth deal with the weight of history.]

5 Tips for Hosting a Youth Media Challenge

1. Find private funders. Seek private grants that your agency can use to purchase prizes for contest winners, Balog says, especially if your government funding puts restrictions on expenses like contest awards. Ask corporate sponsors to invest their time and talents in addition to giving money, Smith adds, such as helping to create marketing materials.

2. Seek out tech-savvy staff. Storing, viewing, and editing media files may require technology not familiar to everyone. Recruit co-workers familiar with those tools, Smith says, to reduce challenges once applications start arriving.

3. Be inclusive. Make sure your contest doesn’t prevent young people from participating because of social or economic hardships, Balog says. The NativeLove media challenge accepts photo entries in addition to video clips, for example, to accommodate youth without access to video technology. The contest also allows young people to enter even if they’re not enrolled in school.

4. Create a judging process. Prevent judging bias by removing personal details from entries like young people’s names and schools, Smith says. She adds that judging panels should also be diverse, including youth as well as adults from the organizing agency, corporate sponsor(s), and local or state governments. For its media challenge, the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center encourages young people and supporters to vote for entries using social media.

5. Schedule each step. Media-based contests require detailed timelines that account for each phase of the project, such as gathering necessary information like parental consents or planning an awards ceremony. If your agency wants to present prizes during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, for example, start in February and work backwards to allow plenty of time for each step, Smith and Balog advise.

[Read about the Federal Interagency Workgroup on Teen Dating Violence and its prevention work.]

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