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Wayne State University professor co-authors book on prevention of teen dating violence and sexual assault

July 9, 2009

Across the U.S., increasing attention is being focused on teen dating violence and sexual assault. Arlene N. Weisz, associate professor in Wayne State University's School of Social Work, co-authored a book titled Programs to Reduce Teen Dating Violence: Perspective on What Works (Columbia University Press), examining programs nationwide geared toward reducing teen dating violence and sexual assault.

Weisz, along with co-author Beverly M. Black, a former Wayne State University faculty member and the current director of the master's degree program in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington, developed the book over five years. They combined the results of interviews with prevention educators with knowledge from research literature. "We interviewed people who were involved in prevention projects from all over the country -52 programs in 23 states, and shared their ideas in quotes throughout the book," Weisz said.

"It was a big project."

The 300-page book came into development because we wanted to share the wisdom accumulated by excellent prevention programs, she said. The School of Social Work is very interested in this type of practice research.

Weisz said that the research focuses on what people can do to teach teens about healthy relationships, especially how to foster respect and equality. She added that the book was meant to be a guide for those developing programs for high school and middle school youth. These programs are often done in schools but can be created wherever there are groups of teens available. Both co-authors have been involved in prevention programs in middle schools and at Wayne State University.

"I think that this is an important and timely topic," Weisz said. "It's important to stop this problem before it starts. It is harder to address a problem after it has already happened," she said.

Weisz said that good programs evolve from careful planning and having "more than a one-hour lecture."

"It takes a series of sessions, including active discussions or role-playing exercises, to truly engage youth in making these changes," she said, adding that the onus shouldn't be on the girls.

"The most severe cases are perpetrated by males."

Weisz said that it is also important to teach boys and young men that being masculine does not mean being violent. Weisz believes many of the ideas shared by the interviewees could also apply to other types of prevention programs such as for drug and alcohol abuse.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research university offering more than 350 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 31,000 students.