Adapting Dating Violence Prevention to Francophone Switzerland: A Story of Intra-Western Cultural Differences

By Hamby, Sherry; Nix, Kaki et al. | Violence and Victims, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Adapting Dating Violence Prevention to Francophone Switzerland: A Story of Intra-Western Cultural Differences


Hamby, Sherry, Nix, Kaki, De Puy, Jacqueline, Monnier, Sylvie, Violence and Victims


Dating violence prevention programs, which originated in the United States, are beginning to be implemented elsewhere. This article presents the first adaptation of a violence prevention program for a European culture, Francophone Switzerland. A U.S. dating violence prevention program, Safe Dates (Foshee & Langwick, 1994), was reviewed in 19 youth and 4 professional focus groups. The most fundamental program concepts- "dating" and "violence"-are not the same in Switzerland and the United States. Swiss youth were not very focused on establishing monogamous romantic relationships, and there is no ready translation for "dating." Violence has not become the focus of a social movement in Switzerland to the same extent that it has in the United States, and distinctions among terms such as "dating violence" and "domestic violence" are not well known. Psychoeducational approaches are also less common in the Swiss context. As the movement to prevent violence extends worldwide, these issues need greater consideration.

Keywords: teen dating violence; prevention; Switzerland; dating

Worldwide interest in the problem of dating violence has grown tremendously (Lavoie, Vézina, Piché, & Boivin, 1995; Straus, 2004). Existing data suggest that dating violence is prevalent in virtually every society where it has been assessed. One study of 16 countries found a median reported dating violence victimization rate of 29%, with a range from 17% to 45% (Straus). Switzerland, one site in that study, had a rate near the median of 25% (Chan, Straus, Brownridge, Tiwari, & Leung, 2008). This growing awareness has led to a proliferation of prevention programs, but the sociocultural appropriateness of most programs has received little attention. The purpose of this article is to present qualitative data on the adaptation of a U.S. dating violence prevention program, Safe Dates (Foshee et al., 1998), to the sociocultural context of Francophone Switzerland.

Dating violence prevention programs are common in the United States, where approximately 50% of youth now receive dating violence prevention (Chandrasekaran & Hamby, 2010). These programs have begun to spread across the industrialized world, including France (Délégation Régionale aux Droits des Femmes d'Ile-de-France, 2003), French-speaking Canada (Lavoie, Pacaud, Roy, & Lebossé, 2007; Lavoie et al., 1995), and English-speaking Canada (Jaffe, Sudermann, Reitzel, & Killip, 1992). Despite a large variety of available programs, there is considerable overlap across content and method. Most programs define violent relationships, dispel myths about violence, examine societal messages about gender and violence, and explore techniques to minimize the risk of violence generally using role-play and other interactive techniques (Hamby, 2006).

Regrettably, formal evaluations of these programs have not kept pace with their popularity. Further, existing evaluations of dating violence prevention programs have yielded decidedly mixed results with many programs, especially brief, one-time programs, showing little effect (Hamby, 2006; O'Leary, Woodin, & Fritz, 2006). A few longer and more carefully crafted programs, however, have been found to reduce dating violence (Foshee et al., 1998; Foshee et al., 2000). Analysis of curriculum content has been even rarer, with most programs having only been evaluated to see if there are global changes in dating violence attitudes or behavior, with little to no attention to whether specific aspects of the curriculum are more or less effective.

There have also been few efforts to determine students' impression of dating violence curricula, but the acceptability of the material to the target audience may have an effect on effectiveness. One U.S. study found that students preferred activities such as role-plays and videos more than activities such as worksheets and class presentations (Elias-Lambert, Black, & Sharma, 2010).

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