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2. Enhance Services and Prevention Education for Youth and Teens




Invest in eliminating the root causes.

Domestic violence victim advocates often describe their struggle to balance prevention efforts with the need to intervene in crisis situations in terms of an allegory of people drowning in a river. The allegory is this: domestic violence victim advocates approach a river in which many, many people are drowning in a swiftly moving current. Naturally, the advocates work to pull out as many people from the river before they are swept away. As they pull more and more people out, the advocates wonder what would cause so many to be fighting for their lives in the current. If only they could go upstream, to the source of the problem, to investigate and prevent whatever it is that is causing the drowning victims to be trapped in the first place. However, the advocates’ dilemma is that moving upstream would necessarily mean they will be unable to keep pulling people out of the river, leaving drowning victims to fend for themselves and likely leading to their deaths.


With inadequate funding for core services and little to no funding for prevention efforts, domestic violence victim service providers find themselves in a position that is analogous to the river allegory. Service providers feel a moral obligation to pull as many victims out of the river—to address the life and death crises of as many victims who come to their doors as they possibly can. They also feel the need to work to prevent the beliefs and behaviors that cause domestic violence in the first place. Yet, because there simply aren’t enough resources to accomplish both tasks, preventing potential future domestic violence could come at the expense of giving life-saving help to a current victim.


We must resolve this untenable dilemma in Wisconsin to create a safer state, now and in the future, by dedicating funding to prevention, while we also ensure adequate funding for core services to current victims. 

Wisconsin youth hold the promise of a more peaceful state.

Nationally, research into prevention education for youth around dating violence and healthy relationships is developing rapidly. Several evidence-based curricula have been tested, and researchers and educators continue to gain insight into promising and effective practices. These are exciting advancements that give promise to the possibility of preventing domestic violence before it ever occurs. Indeed, promoting values of mutual respect and shifting attitudes in the next generation are the only ways we will ever eliminate domestic violence in Wisconsin.


Wisconsin must undertake a concerted effort to promote prevention education. In the last annual reporting period, domestic violence victim service providers offered 3,071 presentations for 87,593 young people in Wisconsin. Given the extreme lack of funding for this work and the competing demands for crisis intervention services, these totals are impressive; however, they represent only a sliver of the state’s population. For example, less than 7% of the state’s youth saw an education session from a service provider.


Prevention educators at domestic violence victim service providers report that their ability to reach more students is seriously hampered by both a lack of funding and limited support from Wisconsin schools. While domestic violence victim service providers are generally recognized as the leaders in their communities on domestic violence issues, many schools do not see education for teen dating violence and prevention as enough of a priority to devote the necessary time and attention. Moreover, a specific funding stream to promote and to implement dating violence prevention simply does not exist, leaving most programs struggling to support this promising activity at its current minimal level.


In addition, domestic violence victim service providers are more and more commonly working to support and guide current victims of teen dating violence to safety. Advocacy with teens requires special skills and training. It also presents complications as advocates negotiate the unique challenges that arise because teen victims do not have all of the rights and options that adult victims do. Laws and policies that govern service provision to teens should seek to maximize their options for seeking help and receiving the support they need.


In one year, 10.3% of WI high

school girls have experienced physical violence in a dating relationship situation.


15.7% have experienced sexual violence in a dating relationship.


These girls are at high-risk for continued abuse into adulthood.

The time to act is now. 

Every child deserves a violent-free adulthood, especially those who grow up in abusive homes. 

Another important aspect to preventing domestic violence in the next generation requires that Wisconsin appropriately care for those children who are most at risk to become victims or perpetrators in adulthood: namely, children who are exposed to domestic violence in their families as they grow. Currently, DCF provides funding for services for children of domestic violence victims. This funding is approximately 1.1 million. This amount is only sufficient to provide grants of $20,000 per year to domestic violence agencies. Service providers work hard to supplement this funding with other resources; however, given the limited grant amounts, many programs cannot afford to retain a full-time staff person to work as a children’s advocate. Moreover, working with children who have been exposed to domestic violence requires specialized skills and knowledge, to understand children’s developmental needs and to provide effective trauma-informed care to these children. With such limited support from the state, domestic violence victim programs struggle to attract and retain qualified staff to help children exposed to domestic violence heal and thrive. 

Anchor 5


  • Pass legislation to promote teen dating violence prevention education and policies in Wisconsin schools and to maximize teens’ options for seeking help and receiving the support they need.


  • Dedicate funding to promote teen dating violence services and prevention activities in Wisconsin.


  • Increase Wisconsin’s support for children exposed to domestic violence by creating sustainable funding for children’s services.

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