Did you know that one in three teens will experience some form of abuse by a dating partner? Additionally, nearly 1.5 million teens experience physical violence by a dating partner. With alarming statistics like these, it’s no wonder February has been dedicated to dating violence awareness, and we have seized the opportunity to offer the guys an abundance of programming designed to prevent such maladies.
Our goals are simple – we know that the best way to prevent dating violence is to educate teens on how to develop healthy relationships, consent, and healthy masculinity.
In my health classes, I inquired with the 9th graders why they thought it is important for young men to work to end sexual violence. In each class, the guys came up with the same ideas: knowing that while violence can happen to any gender, the majority of the time it’s aggression perpetrated by males to females, so they see the importance of being part of the solution. Additionally, many of them understand that it’s their generation that can make a difference to end abuse. We hope this education can do for dating violence prevention what anti-tobacco education did to greatly reduce tobacco use among teens over the past decade.
Toward that end, we kicked off a school-wide conversation about consent and coercion, after watching a video that compares consent to tea. Additional follow-up included a reminder that consent cannot be granted by somebody who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol; that past consent does not automatically grant future consent; and that consent can be withdrawn at any time.
To address the topic of healthy masculinity, we had the former St. Paul’s Chaplain, Rev. Frank Strasburger address all 11th and 12th graders and discuss specifically “What it means to be a man” in our culture and how typical gender stereotypes affect how we treat each other in relationships. Rev. Strasburger spent a couple of days on campus meeting with small groups of students encouraging our boys to break down these stereotypes and be our true selves.
Finally, our 11th grade students will participate in the program with the SPSG students. They will watch the film, Escalation, which depicts a college relationship that intensifies quickly into an abusive and violent one, and then break into small groups for follow-up discussion about signs of dating violence and calls for action.
Through this programming, it is our hope that our guys will have greater awareness about healthy relationships and know how to respond to help themselves or others in order to end dating violence. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.