Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA --
At the end of the day every parent wants to know their children are safe. February marks Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and Marine Corps Community Services’ Family Advocacy Program (FAP) has been building awareness within Marine Corps Base Quantico Middle/High School about safe dating.
FAP completed a nine week Safe Dates program with eighth grade students in the middle of January. Family Advocates Kristiana Poole and Ivette Bennett were trained to teach the Safe Date curriculum.
For the last four years Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ) has taught the fact-based curriculum to teens.
A study conducted by Military Community and Family Policy suggests among high school students, approximately 10 percent report having been physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend within the previous year.
According to the Safe Dates curriculum 25 percent of teenage girls between the age of 15 and 19 and 16 percent of teenage boys between 15 and 19 report having experienced sexual assault and in the majority of cases it was someone the student knew.
The class provides resourceful tools and information on healthy dating relationships, the red flags of dating abuse and how to prevent them, positive communication, anger management, conflict resolution and dating safety.
“Learning this information goes a long way to preventing dating violence,” Poole said. “It is important students receive this information early because even if it has not happened to them personally, it could happen to a friend.”
According to Poole even if students have heard the information before from a parent or teacher, teens and young adults still have difficulty recognizing the symptoms of abusive relationships.
What may start out as innocent behavior in a relationship can set the stage for decisions teens are not quite ready to make and result in incorrect decisions leading to physical assault, rape or worse.
By building awareness of the warning signs in complex and confusing situations and educating students how to develop healthy relationship skills teens may be more equipped to handle difficult situations.
According to Military OneSource, dating abuse typically starts out as teasing, harassing, excessive jealousy and possessiveness and teens may think these behaviors are normal within a relationship, interpreting them as signs of affection.
FAP taught students that various forms of physical and verbal abuse are not normal parts of a relationship and what healthy relationships look like.
As teens discussed the complexities of the current dating environment, they learned everyone has different expectations.
However, one of the most productive aspects of the curriculum was the communication of gender stereotypes between students.
This included what girls and boys expect before going on a date and where the expectations come from such as television, social media or their peers.
Teens also learned and read scenarios which could result in improper decision making such as two teens being home alone, teens attending an unsupervised party, dating where alcohol is involved and more.
However, the most important lesson was the definition of consent and when a person says they mean no means no.
They talked about the importance of constant communication and reading of body language before and during intimate situations, such as holding hands, kissing, hugging and sexual actions, and ensuring a verbal yes for consent was received before going further in any situation.
Although this was a difficult topic for many of the students to discuss, the students said they found the information helpful.
Right now the FAP has only been able to provide the information in 6̅―8 grades; however, the curriculum is also meant for 9̅ ‒12 grades.
The advocacy program is actively working to find a way to provide the information to students going through high school and on into college.
Parents are also reminded of the role they play in producing a safe date culture.
By modeling a healthy relationship, continuing relationship conversations and in turn being open to conversation, date assault can be reduced.
The FAP reminds students that sexual assault is not their fault and if they feel concerned for themselves or a loved one find a friend, parent, teacher or school counselor to speak with.
• Family Advocacy Program: 703-784-2570
• Love is Respect: 866-331-8453
• That’s Not Cool: ThatsNotCool.com
• Break the Cycle: BreakTheCycle.org
• Military One Source: 800-342-9647
• Circle of Six Phone App