Peer Advocates: defeating this crisis

By: Emily Fredette, Educator at Women Helping Battered Women in Burlington, Vermont

“To me, becoming a Peer Advocate means much more than gaining a title.  Rather, the Peer Advocacy Program is a guiding light for an issue that’s all-too-common among my peers.  Hence, I want to not only support the strong survivors of dating violence, but to also spread awareness in hopes of defeating this crisis”

~ Vivian, Age 15, South Burlington High School

Vivian is just one of the four Peer Advocates that are choosing to spend their time giving back to their communities.  Women Helping Battered Women, located in Burlington and serving Chittenden County in Vermont, recognizes that teens are more likely to reach out to their peers when they are in need of support.  Our Peer Advocacy Program recruits and trains dynamic and compassionate youth who want to educate and support survivors of teen dating violence.   Peer advocates initiate outreach events in their school to raise awareness and promote themselves as a support option for other teens.

Women Helping Battered Women has four peer advocates who are currently attending Advocacy Training.  These youth choose to spend every Wednesday night enhancing their knowledge of teen dating violence and strengthening their advocacy skills.  Our peer advocates have been hard at work during Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month initiating Wear Orange Days (orange is the awareness color for teen dating violence), collecting signatures on a healthy relationship dating pledge (Check Out The Dating Pledge Here), creating awareness raising bulletin boards, and talking to their classmates about the impact of dating violence.  A hockey team at one high school even donned orange laces to show their support!  

It takes a leader to be a peer advocate and that is exactly what these teens are.  Their commitment, teamwork, and communication skills make them an incredible asset to Women Helping Battered Women and their school communities.  They have educated and supported countless individuals around teen dating violence; those who we believe never would have reached out for support had there not been a peer advocate in their school.  Peer advocates are reaching into teen culture in a way our adult advocates can’t. It’s so important for adults to be working to create and support opportunities for youth to support each other because in so many ways, they do it better than we can.