NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.
Even before the stress of a pandemic, dating was never easy for teens. Now, Yale researchers have developed a video game designed to help Black teenage girls make healthy dating decisions.
The game is called InvestiDate.
Teens play in groups of three to six. Since the games focuses on heterosexual girls, they are given profiles of teenage boys. Clues make the determination between good choices and bad ones.
“So the game uses a point system. So you’re able to gain points based off of if you’re able to identify red flags and green flags. The green flags typically mean healthy behavior, more complimentary behaviors,” said Dr. Ijeoma Opara, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “Looking at how to identity positive characteristics in a partner that you’re interested in.”
Opara said the game allows for a lighthearted conversation about serious issues. It creates a social network of girls who are empowered to hear about HIV education and how to combat dating violence.
Why is the game specifically for Black girls?
“In regards to this game, talking about healthy relationships, HIV prevention and STI prevention, Black girls are more likely to be diagnosed with STIs that lead to a diagnosis of HIV,” Opara said.
Opara said she can see the game expanding to target other cultural groups as well as boys to make them aware of what mistreatment really is.
“Do you know what it means when a girl says ‘no?’ Do you know what that means,” Opara said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three girls in the U.S. is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month gives agencies dedicated to ending domestic violence the opportunity to create awareness.
“I’ve said so often the real danger here is that we don’t reach teens. They don’t grow up knowing what a healthy, or experiencing what a healthy relationship is. Then they repeat that pattern throughout their entire adult lives,” said Mary-Jane Foster, president and CEO of Interval House, the largest agency in the state dedicated to ending domestic violence.
Foster said they are partnering to work with schools in the region, middle schools, even the elementary schools on a consistent basis so students repeatedly hear the message of what a healthy relationship looks like.