Checking the Pulse on Youth Advocacy and Prevention Education Work

by Matt Renaud, Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator at AWARE

I’ve been the Youth Advocate & Prevention Educator at AWARE for a little over two years now and I’m finally starting to feel grounded in what this job is all about.  That being said, I also feel that the field of youth advocacy (and advocacy in general) has been shifting during the course of my time at AWARE and that it continues to shift.  Maybe this is the way it has always been – the only thing that stays the same is that everything changes.  After all, in order to best meet the needs of the people we serve, we need to be constantly evolving.  I got curious about how other Youth Advocates and/or Prevention Educators have experienced change, success, and challenge in their role, so I sent out a set of questions to my colleagues across the state.  Responses came from people who have been in this work anywhere from one year to over a decade.  Here is a picture of where youth advocacy in Vermont is headed, straight from the horse’s mouth.

 Where do you see our work as Youth Advocates and/or Prevention Educators headed in the future?

Savannah Williams from Umbrella North in Newport explained, “Schools used to be really hesitant [about working with advocacy programs] before Act One was passed, but now Youth Advocates & Prevention Educators are seen more as allies than as strangers in certain communities.”

Bobbi Gagne from the Sexual Assault Crisis Team (SACT) in Barre describes the future of advocacy as “Learning from youth what they see as issues they face rather than us deciding what issues they see as important.”

What’s your favorite part about being a Youth Advocate and/or Prevention Educator?

Laura Young from Umbrella South in St. Johnsbury says, “My favorite part of being a Youth Advocate and Prevention Educator is all of the relationships that I have been able to build Continue reading


What Teens Really Need from Us

By Amy Torchia, Children’s Advocacy Coordinator, Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

My personal lesson this month has been about adolescent development and the responsibilities that adults have in the lives of teens.

At a training this week, I heard a scenario of a middle school relationship.  The boy sent abusive accusing jealous texts to his girlfriend.  The boy had lots of unhealthy relationships to watch and model, transition and trauma to contend with – not to mention the experience of racism and a culture dominated by male privilege telling him that he had the right to exert this kind of control over his partner.  The girl was from a home with lots of healthy models but nonetheless a girl hearing from the larger world to be strong and stand up for herself and, at the same time, take care of her boyfriend’s needs and watch the length of her shorts.  How confusing is all that to figure out?  We adults want them both to succeed, be safe and happy, and learn about and engage in healthy relationships.  But, they can’t do it without us.  They are only 14.

We lost a teen boy in our community last night.  He was swimming with friends in the pond, went under and didn’t resurface.  We don’t know what happened yet.  Most likely he was dehydrated or had a cramp.  This beautiful young man’s life was cut short and his family, friends and community are devastated.  He was only 17.

I have been watching his friends on facebook.  They are sharing stories, expressing their love for him, their love for each other and offering to spend time together and talk.  They have created a beautiful safe forum to grieve together and support one another.  I have a worry, though.  I have seen a few invitations to go out and get blasted together in honor of him and a few stories of reckless and unsafe behavior.  In the wake of the death of a friend, Continue reading

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

by Emily Fredette, Educator at Women Helping Battered Women

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month All month long, adults and teens across the country will be raising awareness of teen dating violence and engaging in conversations about relationships.  Teen Dating Violence is defined as a pattern of violence or coercive behaviors that someone uses to gain and maintain power and control over a current or former dating partner.  Statistically 1 in 3 teens will be a survivor of dating abuse in their lifetime, and two out of every three teens know a survivor of dating abuse.  It is an issue that is all too common in teen relationships.

This February, give the power back!  Allow teens to take the lead in raising awareness and facilitating conversation. 

Need a few ideas for engagement?  Here’s what you can do:

  • Participate in conversations about safe and healthy relationships. Check out this conversation guide from   Ask, listen, and validate youth opinions and experiences.
  • Wear Orange on February 10th! Orange is the official color for teen dating violence awareness.  Dress yourself from head to toe in orange to show your support.  Encourage other adult allies to dress in orange too.  Take a picture and post to social media!
  • Promote awareness events during Respect Week 2015. Some ideas include hosting a relationship jeopardy game, getting athletes to don orange gear during a sporting event, or host a bake sale and donate the money to a local DV agency.  Allow youth to take the lead, and support them to make it happen.
  • Provide information about resources and support available for you. Make sure youth know where to access accurate information and confidential support.  Look for a Vermont Network program near you.


Relationship Status Book: New and Improved

By Judy Szeg, Educator, Safeline 

Hey out there!  We’d like to point you toward our newly revised Relationship Status Book which is now available on the web.  You can download it or check it out as an online Flip Book.  rs book

Relationship Status is a perennial publication of the Network’s designed for youth in Vermont about healthy relationships.  In addition to information that will inform youth about supporting and controlling relationships, sex and consent, drugs and alcohol and resources for finding support – there are new pages that talk about dealing with conflict, how to handle break ups, and virtual connections.


Another resource was also recently updated.  Our Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Violence, and Protection Orders: The Law and Your Rights booklet provides information about legal options for teens who have experienced dating violence. It is available as a downloadable pdf.

If you are located in Vermont and would like a hard copy of either brochure, please contact your local Vermont Network program.



More than calculus or history: teacher’s supporting students

By: Janie, age 17, Peer Advocate at South Burlington High School, Vermont for Women Helping Battered Women

I’m a Peer Advocate at Women Helping Battered Women, meaning that as a high school student, I work in my school to spread awareness about dating violence and domestic abuse. While this is my first year as a Peer Advocate, something that’s really stood out to me is this undiluted support I and other Peer Advocates have felt from the adults in our school.

I, for one, could not imagine being able to pull off our most recent event, Purple Ribbon Day, without the continuous support from the faculty Continue reading

Anger in a Relationship

Stephen McArthur, Advocate & Community Outreach Coordinator at Circle in Barre, Vermont

No matter how well a couple gets along, or how much they are “in love” or “best friends,” there are still times when there are disagreements, arguments, even hurt feelings because seeing totally eye to eye is not possible. These conflicts can happen for a number of reasons: different values or opinions, arguing on principle, someone is in a “bad mood” and irritable, tired or not feeling well, or simply as a result of different beliefs about relationship issues.

In an equal and respectful relationship, Continue reading

The Signs: A Literary Review From The Eyes of a Youth

By: Vivian, Peer educator, age 16, South Burlington High School

During our Peer Advocate training for Women Helping Battered Women (WHBW), my friends and I have delved into the world of teen dating violence in order to support our peers. WHBW’s wonderful Educator, Emily Fredette, guides us through aspects like dating violence causes, warning flags, and program options. Recently, Emily shared with us The Signs, a short film by the Digital Bodega production company. Continue reading

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 Continue reading

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month!

Here’s what you can do…
  • Join youth, adults, and advocates all over the nation by taking time to talk together about what makes relationships healthy.  Here’s a conversation guide.
  • Follow this link to join a #NationalRespectAnnouncement campaign, which will send a media blast on twitter, facebook, and tumbler at 9am on Valentines day (Friday 2/14). Sign on with Thunderclap and it will automatically be posted on your social media accounts! (verified safe)
  • Watch this video with the young people in your lives and talk about what love is!