RCASA Tuesday Prevention: Teen Magazines

In Sexual Assault Awareness on January 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Recently, an article came out in the journal Violence Against Women titled ‘Teen Magazines as Educational Texts on Dating Violence: The $2.99 Approach.’ The article examines what role magazines aimed at the teen audience have on teen dating and teen dating violence [TDV].

The article states that teen magazines have the position of a counselor to young women. This role influences how young women look at their own relationships, including whether they should be in one or not, and whether or not they should be sexually active. The study revealed that, of stories about TDV, case studies were the most common. In these case studies, aspects of the teens’ stories were mixed in with ‘cursory references’ to information about the broader social context of TDV (Kettrey, H.H. & Emery, B.C; 2010). This method of storytelling is deemed effective by the authors because of its ability for articles to ‘hit home’ and make them identifiable to teens’ lives. When discussing the cultural frame of TDV, using these case studies can make the information in the article easier to digest and understand. This also helps teens understand that dating violence is both an individual and cultural problem. Of the articles examined in the study that explored the broader social context of TDV, two influences were ‘alluded’ to, ‘’gender socialization and family transmission of violence’ (Ibid, 2010).

The focus of these articles is overwhelmingly on the victim. The victim’s story is told from the victim’s perspective. Exploring how victims were portrayed, the authors found that the ‘circumstances of the victim were often maximized’ (Ibid., p1282). Unfortunately, the dynamics of the violence were framed in the framework of the individual. This was done by ‘highlighting victim naiveté and failing to recognize the cycle of violence’ (Ibid., 1285).

Interventions were found to be framed as legal outlets or services in the community (like RCASA!). The solutions to TDV found in these articles were ‘checklists, psychological counseling, or fairytale ending’ (Ibid., 1287).

The media is a powerful influence on our behavior. It plays a major role in our socialization and how we view and interpret life. With the television being widely available now, as well as the internet, media messages have become more powerful with each succeeding generation. These messages come to u from every angle; walk outside and you will be bombarded by advertising. We spend more and more time in front of the TV, listening to music, surfing the internet. This creates a very obvious disconnect between individuals, this means that these messages are becoming more prevalent and more profound in their effect on us. When we don’t have others to ask the questions of ourselves we can’t, or won’t, we tend to accept the easiest solutions, or what is the first thing we hear.

The article makes clear that, while teen magazines have the ear of young women and can influence positively their ability to avoid or get out of abusive relationships, it is no way presently truly preventing TDV. Prevention of violence is only necessary when there is someone using violence. Thus, prevention efforts must target perpetrators, not victims, or rather not solely victims. These magazines could do wonders in preventing violence is the messages are directed more towards the abusers as well as exploring the social context in which TDV occurs. We need to, as a society, have an open and honest discussion about violence. TDV, IPV, SV, SA….etc, happen far too often to strictly be considered an individual problem. We have a cultural problem.

This is a great article, and it focuses on an incredibly important avenue of information distribution. There are some issues, however, as the article is inappropriately titled. Most teen magazines are directly aimed at young women. Guys tend to either not read magazines, or read magazines aimed at an older audience* (wink, wink) e.g. Men’s Health, Maxim…etc. So they have left out a huge audience of messages. The article also normalizes heterosexual relationships. It neglects to mention the very real, though still rare, gay and lesbian relationships. Also missing is the violence experienced by young men. We know that men experience violence at the hands of their female partners.

The issue is with violence in general, prevention efforts need to be varying and crossing all social structures.


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