Scarborough High School tackles teen dating violence

Scarborough High School sophomore Ava Wakem is joined by school social workers Elise Lehotsky and Jaclyn D’Annibale in front of the school’s Finding Our Voices exhibit for Awareness Month and teen dating violence prevention. Courtesy picture

SCARBOROUGH — According to national statistics, 10% of teens experience dating violence, said Elise Lehotsky, social worker at Scarborough High School. She suspects the number is higher.

She knows there are high school students who are in abusive relationships, Lehotsky said, and that’s why during the month of February, which is Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in teen dating violence, she and fellow social worker Jaclyn D’Annibale decided to lead a multifaceted project on teen dating violence at SHS.

The two “have established a program that will educate students through information panels, interactive and shared activities, videos that will be released via email, and guest speakers at the school,” Lehotsky said in an e-mail. -mail. “We involved the students in the installation of the project, from designing the boards and videos, to how to formulate the information in a relevant way and how they thought we could best attract the attention of their fellow students. of class.”

The school also incorporates a program created by Finding Our Voices, which, according to its website, is a Maine-based nonprofit organization powered by survivors of domestic violence and through which survivors share their stories.

One of 41 Finding Our Voices “Say Something” posters, each featuring a different Maine survivor, being distributed to 100 Maine high schools as part of the first phase of the Schools Awareness and Prevention Initiative non-profit group dating abuse. Courtesy Image

Finding Our Voices celebrated its third anniversary on Valentine’s Day, according to the nonprofit. The group is sending posters and bookmarks to more than 25,000 Maine teens at 100 high and technical schools, including SHS, in the first phase of this statewide school initiative. The printed material features the faces and voices of 41 named domestic violence survivors in Maine, ages 18 to 81, including Governor Janet Mills.

Patrisha McLean, founder and president of the nonprofit, said she was targeting high schools because “some of the survivors in our posters were 14 or 15 when they met the intimate partner who terrorized them, them and their children, for decades.We partner with schools in Maine to spread the message that love is not grand romantic gestures and flowery words, but rather respecting and valuing your intimate partner .

Not only was the Finding Our Voices material incorporated into the teen dating abuse awareness and prevention program, Lehotsky said, but also “the school released people’s personal stories so that students and staff can feel empowered to share their witness or experience of domestic violence.

The facility is designed to educate staff and students about abusive relationships and relationships based on equality.

It solicits examples of both types of relationships from students and faculty and is designed for students to interact with.

“The examples will be anonymized and turned into a tapestry of all voices so that no one feels alone and people learn to recognize dangerous, mean and unacceptable behavior,” Lehotsky said. “The goal is to help people find (or at least share) a voice that helps them create change and seek healthy relationships.”

Lehotsky said she and others involved in the project felt it was important because “we have qualitative evidence of attendance abuse occurring to varying degrees at Scarborough High School. As Valentine’s Day approached, my colleague and I were interested in sharing red flags and markers of healthy relationships with our student population. »

“Nearly 10% of teens in the United States have reported experiencing dating violence,” she said.

In the state of Maine statistics; 8.3% of Maine high school students report that someone they were dating or dating has physically hurt them at least once in the past year, according to 2015 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, “High School Detailed Report “. The numbers were higher for LGBTQ students, 19.2%, and bisexual students, 18.3%, than for heterosexual students, 6.7%.

Additionally, more than half of American teens know friends who have experienced dating abuse, while one in four 11- to 14-year-olds say physical dating violence is a serious concern for their group. age, according to Tween and Teen Dating Violence and Abuse. 2008 survey by Anne Glauber.

Lehotsky said she fears the number of people experiencing teen dating violence could be even higher.

“My concern is that many people may not feel comfortable talking with adults, may not answer polls factually, or keep quiet out of shame and embarrassment even after ‘to be separated from their partner,’ she said. “Worse still, sometimes these behaviors fall within the ‘norm’ of their experience and they may not realize that they are being abused. Our goal is to build healthy habits within our population, regardless of previous exposure to abuse, as well as to create a community that will identify problem behaviors and support each other.

There are a number of signs of abuse in romantic relationships. Courtesy Image

Physical and sexual abuse are not the only signs of domestic violence or teen dating violence. Other signs include: isolating someone from friends and family, putting someone down and pointing out their flaws, manipulating someone with threats of violence or suicide, minimizing abuse, or saying violence is the way to go. fault of the other person, or controlling someone financially.

For those who suspect they are being abused, the school has resources listed throughout the building.

Additionally, Lehotsky said, students can “access the guidance service if they need help. At SHS, we also have comprehensive guidelines for teachers to seek increased support if a student shares information or shows signs of any type of abuse (sudden change in mood, social withdrawal, age-regressive behavior, self-harm, any significant form or unexplained injury, etc…). If students feel unsafe, we help them access legal protections and are legally required to report physical abuse of a minor.

For those who are victims or know a victim of teen dating violence, Lehotsky advises, “If you see something, say something. If you’re not ready or feel unsafe, it’s not your fault and starting to understand what’s going on and what you need to do is the first step to getting out of hell.

About admin

Check Also

Dozens gather to honor the lives of two slain Lexington children

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – It was a gloomy Monday night for part of the Lexington …