Education is Key to Violence Prevention
I was taken aback when reading the New York Times column posted on the Women's Fund Facebook page last week. The article highlighted a group of 14- and 15-year-old boys' "draft" of girls in their Maryland community. I won't go into the details, but you can read the column by clicking here. What may be viewed by some as innocent adolescent behavior may also foreshadow long-term issues with respect for women, which can lead to dating violence and domestic abuse. Objectifying women and girls diminishes a girl or woman's self-confidence and self-worth. It can have lasting impact on how she views relationships, and lead the offender (in this case, boys), to believe it is acceptable to treat others in this way.
The Indianapolis Star recently featured a program conducted at Westlane Middle School in Washington Township. Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships Initiative was implemented in all seventh-grade health classes last year, and will be spread to two more middle schools next year. A nationwide initiative, Start Strong is targeted to 11- to 14-year-olds, promoting healthy relationships as a way to prevent teen dating violence and abuse. The program is not only targeted to the students, but also engages educators, parents and caregivers, and policymakers. Start Strong Indianapolis reports:
- 11.6% of Indiana high school youth reported being hit, slapped, or physically hurt by their boyfriend/girlfriend.
- As many as 13.2% of females and 5.3% of males reported being physically forced into sexual intercourse.
These numbers are too high. Start Strong Indianapolis is partnering with Clarian Health to reach 4,000 students through engaging curriculum co-taught by peer advocates; to team with parents, healthcare providers, caregivers, coaches, and other youth serving organizations; and, to work with the Department of Education to enhance current policies through Indiana schools to address sexual harassment, bullying and violence.
Women's Fund is proud to be part of the solution, helping prevent domestic violence before it starts. Women's Fund has supported the Ruth Lilly Health Education Center's Healthy Relationships program for all 5th and 7th grade IPS students over three years. We are glad other groups are partnering together to champion and make violence prevention efforts a priority. These dedicated efforts will have long-term impact on the students involved and on the health and well-being of our community.
If you mentor a young person, I encourage you to keep communication lines open and make an effort to model and encourage healthy relationship behavior.
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