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National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month January 20, 2012

Posted by Alicia in Education, How To Help, Teenage Relationships, What We're Up To.
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February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  What have we done, and what can we do to promote healthy relationships among teens?  In November, our bloggers and friends of unfollowcharlie raised awareness and contributed to Break the Cycle, a campaign in conjunction with loveisrespect.org.

With the help of our donation, Break the Cycle is:

Teaching teens the signs of abuse
Training the next generation of leaders about dating violence
Ensuring that teens in every state have basic rights, like access to restraining orders.

What can we do without even leaving our computers, iPads and iPhones?

On each Monday beginning January 16th (oops, missed one) you can tweet comments and answers to teens about what healthy relationships are. Tweet to #whatlovemeans on these dates:

Monday January 23rd
Monday, January 30th
Monday February 6th

The best answers will be retweeted at @Love_isNotAbuse and @Seventeenmag

On Facebook, you can post on your wall raising awareness.  Or do more, get creative!  And “like” or post on this page:

You can check out this list of states to see how yours stacks up with others in passing legislation about teen dating violence education and new laws protecting teens in need of a restraining order.  Don’t like what you see?  Contact your legislator, and if they don’t respond with legislation, ask the schools.  There are community programs that can help the schools and provide in-service training for certified teachers.

Read a transcript of the DVD available from the PBS program ‘in the mix’ for teens.

And, here is a FREE curriculum on teen dating violence with videos included to educate yourself, or even receive certification.

What still needs to be done to help teens maintain healthy relationships?

A lot.  But let’s start here. Very few domestic shelters accept teens as the primary victims, and most teen victims are not protected by law unless they are living with the abuser or have a child with him.  Advocating for effective and well funded programs to protect teens and help their abusers receive counseling is essential.  In terms of prevention, since most teens confide in their friends, and spend much of their day at school, educating teens about how to help their peers should be a top priority.


Voices Against Violence September 30, 2011

Posted by Alicia in Domestic Abuse, Education, help a friend.
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Voices Against Violence

My alma mater, the University of Texas is a beautiful, sprawling campus that holds great memories for me.  However, my freshmen year I was oblivious to the services that were available to me regarding safety on campus and stalking.  Had I known, I may have stopped in the campus Counseling and Mental Health Resource Center to ask what to do about a stranger who showed up after my classes, asked me out, and after I declined, followed me on campus for three days.  I think of all the women who aren’t as fortunate to have it end with the perpetrator just stopping the behavior. Today on the campus, programs like Voices Against Violence are raising awareness that help is available.

This year, UT is celebrating the tenth year of its program Voices Against Violence, sponsored by the Counseling and Mental Health Resource Center.  They have an extensive program that assists students with a variety of mental health concerns including dating relationships, sexual violence, and stalking.  Check out Building a Healthy Relationships from the Start.

CMHC’s biggest event to raise awareness occurs in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  If you walk through what we call the West Mall of the campus on awareness day, chances are you will be handed a carnation with a slip of paper attached to it.  Written on the paper is the story of a Texan who died that year due to domestic violence.  In 2008, program coordinators and volunteers passed out 2000 carnations.  Also at the event are students reading aloud some of the stories, calling out the warning signs of abusive relationships, and performing spoken word dialogues.

Voices Against Violence Theatre for Dialogue   is a program that uses theatre as a medium to involve students in learning about realistic scenarios in unhealthy relationships and healthy ways to respond to them. They give performances to student groups, faculty and community outreach programs.  The audience is an active participant in the performances.  Check out the video in the link!

The Counseling and Mental Health Resource Center also has reading materials that appeal to college students, offering realistic dialogue between someone in an unhealthy relationship and the friends who try to help.  Here is one example, the story of Kris and Franky, told in comic book style format.

Katy wrote about and posted the power and control wheel, an excellent visual educational tool for dating violence. The University of Texas takes pride in the degrees offered in its college of liberal arts for students who wish to be counselors  to the GLBT community, so I’d like to share with you the  GLBT power wheel, designed by the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti Violence Project and posted at UT’s  CMHC site.  It has scenarios I wasn’t really conscious of until I saw the wheel, but now I know I’ve seen the type of control they are describing.

I encourage you to look at the links, there’s a comic,  a video,  a power wheel, and lots of great info on the healthy progression of relationships.

What did you learn in high school? September 28, 2011

Posted by Syd in Domestic Abuse, Education, Uncategorized.
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As mentioned (and sorry for the delay, folks!), Part II of the school coverage.  We would LOVE to hear about your experiences, too, so please feel free to comment!

So, I went to a great school in New York – the Bronx High School of Science.  It’s a specialized high school, with a heavy emphasis on math and science, and in a lot of ways, I found it more challenging than college.    (NYC based parents, I encourage you to check it out if you think it’s something your child would be interested in).  And in those 4 years, I took exactly 1 semester of Health, which was all that was required to graduate.  Health was that general class where you would learn about nutrition, general health, and sexual health, as I recall.  Our textbooks had the scary pictures of herpes, and I definitely remember giving a report on partial birth abortions. I do not remember covering relationships or emotional health.  Like many high schools, Bronx Science had a readily available number of guidance counselors, as well as a great teaching staff – but it’s not enough.  I do not blame Bronx Science – they were adhering to the New York requirements for the Regents diploma.  Here’s the problem – I graduated in 1997.  The requirements for graduation have not change significantly, and they have not changed as it relates to the Health requirement.

Domestic and dating violence is not a new phenomenon.  The problems that existed when I was that age still exist today.  Do we know more about them now due to the advent of the internet and other social media?  Absolutely.  While internet resources allow students to look up hotlines and outreach centers, it has also paved the way for cyber-bullying and sexting.

Is there hope?  Maybe.  There is legislation pending in New York and several other states to make  a dating/domestic violence curriculum mandatory for students in grades 7-12, although similar legislation failed in Maryland, Oregon, Oklahoma and Virginia.

Tell us about your experiences in high school, or tell us what is happening with your children.  There are several states that HAVE adopted acts similar to the Lindsay Ann Burke Act – but it is difficult to determine if the schools have implemented that curriculum.

Summer is almost over, and you know what that means. August 24, 2011

Posted by Syd in Education, How To Help.
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As Alicia wrote earlier, it’s getting to be that time. Back to school! If you’re a college student going away to school, you’ve probably started making your rounds at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond for the essentials (flip flops, always, if you are living in the dorms) and high school students – just a few short weeks of summer left!

In light of the back to school season, I wanted to cover my experiences with the curriculum and support provided by my alma maters in regards to healthy relationships and perhaps more broadly, the well-being of the students.  I’ll be covering, in reverse chronological order:  University at Albany, Bronx High School of Science, and I.S. 227 – The Louis Armstrong Middle School.   As you’ll see, all my experiences are based in New York State, but we would love to hear more about other states and areas, so please let us know of your experiences below in the comments!  This first post on the subject will cover Albany, and then I’ll cover the others in future posts, discussing some of the issues that come along with the state-mandated curriculums.

SUNY Albany – Like many universities, SUNY Albany has a pretty substantial health and counseling center, providing a full range of services.  Specifically, they have the Sexual Assault Resource Center, with resources dedicated to Intimate Partner Abuse and Stalking.  While I encourage you to look at all the resources within those pages, please review the Coordinated Response to Stalking and Intimate Partner Abuse, How to Help (whether you are a student, parent, friend, or faculty/staff member), and additional resources.   I was very fortunate in my time at Albany as I never required these services, and obviously the hope is that the students don’t need them either, but I am impressed and relieved that there are these resources specifically dedicated to this.   During my time in Albany, I was also a part of the Middle Earth program, a program that provides telephone assistance (and now it looks to be offering online assistance as well), and it’s completely anonymous.  It was an extremely rewarding experience, so I highly recommend interested students to check it out to see if they would like to join, but also – any Albany students in crisis, please give them a call.  You don’t have to disclose anything you don’t want to, but they are there to help you in any way they can.

Let’s open it up in the comments – what did your schools offer?  Did you have resources like these?


Dating Violence Education Curricula June 16, 2011

Posted by Kate in Domestic Abuse, Education, Prevention, Teenage Relationships.
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Schools have different goals for their prevention/education programs and different resources to achieve those goals.  Here is a list of some of the established curricula to help achieve those goals.

Break the Cycle:  This is an LA based organization.  It’s curriculum has a focus on the role of law enforcement and how to obtain protection orders.  For more information, please click here.

Choose Respect:  This is the Center for Disease Control’s curriculum to encourage healthy relationships.  It is free of charge.  For more information, please click here.

Expect Respect: This is the curriculum that was developed in Austin, TX for A Safe Place which has been educating teens since 1998.  This curriculum has a fee.  For more information, please click here.

Love Is Not Abuse:  This is the website and curriculum developed by Liz Claiborne Inc.  It is also free of charge.  For general information about dating abuse, please click here.  For a copy of the free curriculum, register here.

Safe Dates:  This curriculum was developed for teens by Hazelden, who has also developed curriculum for teens regarding substance abuse.  Start Strong uses this curriculum and the CDC has also used this curriculum.  For more information, please click here.

Where We Are Headed June 12, 2011

Posted by Syd in Education, Prevention, What We're Up To.
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Two months on, the media attention paid to Charlie Sheen has died down.  The producers of “Two and Half Men” have moved on.  The men and women of UnfollowCharlie are now also moving on, or rather, shifting our focus.  When we started this project, we knew we wanted to raise awareness about domestic violence.  We wanted to highlight great individuals and organizations, and we wanted to educate our readers about some of the truly disheartening statistics out there.  What we struggled with was a particular way to help – domestic violence – it’s a huge, global issue, and there are several aspects one can tackle.  While we wrote about/tweeted/linked to sites or stories we found, we needed to focus our energies.   Over discussions on how to do so,  Jenn raised an interesting point:

“ Boys are often taught to stifle their feelings and that comes out in bad ways in a relationship. I also think some men have mommy issues that they project onto their partner, and when it goes bad it goes really bad. There are a whole lot of codependency issues involved as well. My hope was that there was some sort of education for young boys that teaches them this is not okay, no matter what, and if you start to feel this way, you should do this.”

The wheels started to turn from there.  She’s right – children and adolescents are not being taught about domestic violence to any great degree.  They are learning from the relationships they see at home.  Kate has been doing an enormous amount of research on this topic – finding out where programs actually exist, how do they work, how they are funded.  She discovered that thankfully, work IS being done in this area, but it is not enough.  Schools face budget cuts on a regular basis, and funding does not exist for “non-essential” programs.

We believe this education IS essential.  Children and teens must be taught about healthy relationships.  They need to be able to recognize the signs of unhealthy or violent relationships, especially if they are raised in a violent home, otherwise these behaviors become normalized.

So – that’s where we’re headed.  Come with us!

How can you help?

First of all, we’re changing our name.  We need suggestions!  We’re opening this up to Facebook and Twitter, and we’re going to make it a friendly competition.  We need a positive, empowering name.  We’ve got some ideas we’re rolling around, but give us yours!  The contributor with the best suggestion will win a $100 donation to RAINN in their name.    We need it themed along our new goal, and can be an acronym.  The competition will end on July 16, 2011 at 11:59 EST.

Secondly –  Tell us what’s going on in your area.  What level of education exists in your local schools and communities?  How are the programs funded?

Third – please help us spread the word!  We’re on twitter, follow us here, and please join us on Facebook.

Please stay tuned for the new developments!