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Changing the Culture: How Do We Prevent Dating Violence and Sexual Assault?

HLogo 302x270ow do we prevent dating violence and sexual assault?

While there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer to this question, Tri-Valley Haven offers a dedicated Prevention Education Program for teens. We hope that by educating local youth about dating violence prevention, we can prevent domestic violence in future generations.

As the lead Preventionist, I visit local schools with a dedicated team of volunteers to educate teens about healthy relationships, dating abuse and bullying prevention, and bystander intervention  year-round. We offer classroom presentations, lunchtime school events,  parent workshops and staff training through the program.

In our classroom presentations, we help students focus on healthy relationships, personal boundaries, assertive communication and safe and effective bystander intervention strategies. We approach all of these topics in age-appropriate way and tailor each presentation to fit the school because know each school community is unique.

How can you support our prevention efforts?

  • Request a presentation. If you work with a group of teens, consider scheduling a presentation for your club, after-school program, religious youth group or community group! Contact our Preventionists at (925) 667-2727 or visit www.trivalleyhaven.org
  • Donate to our Prevention Education Program. We currently provide presentations to local Tri-Valley area high schools and Livermore middle schools. Next year we hope to expand our program to include all Tri-Valley area middle schools. You can make this possible by donating to our prevention efforts.
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Tri-Valley Haven’s heart pledges at Dublin High School last year.


3a92488In addition to providing advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, Jessie is the lead Preventionist for our Prevention Education Program at Tri-Valley Haven. Learn more about our teen presentations our Teen page on our website.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness at Dublin High School

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so Tri-Valley Haven headed out to Dublin High School to spread awareness last week. Together the Haven joined Mrs. Slavec and the Be Strong Girls Group to educate teens about dating violence. Students pledged to engage in healthy relationships and received information about dating abuse and the Be Strong Girls Group.

Be Strong is an empowerment group for girls in high school. Tri-Valley Haven facilitates monthly group meetings and provide a open, safe space for the girls to discuss different topics related to gender, self-esteem and leadership. For our Teen Dating Violence Awareness event, each girl was responsible for organizing a part of the event. They also played a vital role in spreading the word about the event ahead of time and encouraging their classmates to participate.

When we hear discussions about dating violence, they often focus on adults who have been in abusive relationship. However 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. has experienced physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse by a dating partner.

Dublin HS BeStrong Teen Dating Awareness Month Event 111This is why Tri-Valley Haven is dedicated to educating teens about healthy relationships and the warning signs of abuse. We provide a safe space for teens to discuss what they see happening at their school and how they can keep themselves safe – emotionally and physically.

Thanks to Mrs. Slavec and our Be Strong Girls Group, our Tri-Valley Haven Teen Dating Violence Awareness Event was a success! It was inspiring to witness the Be Strong girls educating their classmates about this issue. After the event, we displayed the pledges on the doors and windows of the school library as part of Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Talking to Teens about Dating Violence and Bullying in Pleasanton High Schools

“10/10! Would do it again!”

“It was very helpful, especially since this is becoming more common.”

“We haven’t learned much about this yet, so it was great to learn about it!”

“I liked how the presenters were open and not scared to talk about anything.”

“I really thought this inspired me to take action because I noticed some random person online for being called a “b—–” for so-called bullying that they didn’t even do. I feel like standing up that person [who is being cyberbullied] now, as it wasn’t their fault.”

“I felt that Tri-Valley Haven is there for me.”

These are some of the comments we received from ninth-graders after our Healthy Relationships and Bullying Prevention presentations at Foothill High School and Amador High School in Pleasanton this semester.

During the school year, I visit local middle schools and high schools to talk to teens about healthy relationships, teen dating violence and bullying in an age-appropriate way. At the end of each presentation, I hand out surveys to see how effective our presentations are and get anonymous feedback from the students.

Recently we lost all federal and state funding for our youth education programs due to a cut in California funding. As a result, we’ve had to trim many of our presentations down from 2-day classes to 1-day condensed classes in Livermore and Dublin schools. Fortunately, the Pleasanton Youth Commission has continued to fund our Prevention Education program. Thanks to their generosity, we are able to continue providing 2-day presentations to health classes at Pleasanton schools.

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During our full 2-day presentations, we have the opportunity to do more activities with the students to talk about these topics. One of our most popular activities is called “What Would You Do?” During this activity, we read out different scenarios about dating violence or bullying. Then we ask students move to different corners of the room depending on whether they would do nothing (no intervention), step in on their own (primary intervention) or get help (secondary intervention). After each scenario, students get a chance to share what they might do.

Wow, does this activity get teens talking!

Whether we’re talking about dating violence or bullying, each student brings their own unique perspective into the conversation. Sometimes students disagree with their classmates’ suggestions for intervention; other times the entire class ends up standing in the same corner of the room. Many of the classes I visited at Foothill High and Amador High had a lot to say during this activity.

In one class, I asked students what they might do if they witnessed a guy violently shove a girl to the ground on their way to class. Many of the guys in the class said they would step in and confront the guy. In contrast, several of the girls said they would feel more comfortable getting help from a trusted adult or friend. A few of these girls mentioned that they would be afraid of getting hurt if they tried to confront a male student.

Then I told students to imagine the same scenario with one detail changed: “What would you do if you saw a girl shove a guy to the ground?”

Almost every girl said they would feel comfortable talking to the abusive student (in this scenario, another girl) by themselves. However nearly all of the guys said they would be hesitant to intervene. When I asked why, many of them said they wouldn’t know what to say or do in this situation. One student even admitted, “I’ve never heard of this happening to guys.”

This sparked a discussion between the students about assumptions or expectations we might have about who can or cannot be a victim of violence. Many of the students have been encouraged to take a stand against bullying in the past. But often our presentations are the first time students have had the chance to discuss what intervening might actually entail. As presenters, we encourage students to think of intervening indirectly, such as asking for help from a teacher or friend, as well as being assertive.

One of the handouts students fill out before we start our presentations. (via Instagram)

During the conversation, one of the guys mentioned that he would be worried about embarrassing the victim (another guy) if he told the abusive student to stop. So we discussed other ways he might intervene, such as getting help from a teacher so he didn’t have to directly intervene or checking in with the male student in private after the incident.

One of the girls who felt comfortable intervening even suggested, “You could ask one of us for help.”

Isn’t it amazing how one scenario can prompt so many different opinions? Many of the other classes had similar discussions about this particular scenario. As I tell the students, there is no “right” answer when we do this activity. There are many ways students can safely intervene when they see dating violence or bullying happen at their school.

It’s just a matter of getting students to consider their options.


3a92488 In addition to providing advocacy for survivors of sexual assault, Jessie is the newest presenter for our Prevention Education Program at Tri-Valley Haven. Learn more about our teen presentations our Teen page on our website.

Support Tri-Valley Haven on #GivingTuesday

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As you eat delicious home-cooked food and give thanks with your loved ones on Thanksgiving, Tri-Valley Haven will be answering our 24-hour toll-free crisis line. Families will celebrate the holiday in our domestic violence and homeless shelters. Our staff and volunteers will provide vital shelter and support services to families in need.

Tri-Valley Haven (TVH) offers advocacy for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and homelessness year-round. Tri-Valley Haven is often the one safe place they can turn for support. Sadly, there are too many families who are experiencing violence during the holiday season.

Turkey DinnerThroughout the year, we encourage our wonderful, local community to envision a world without violence. Our staff organizes events to spread awareness, such as Candlelight Marches for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October and Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, our Clothesline Project in April, and Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month in February. We also collaborate with other local agencies that are also committed to building a world without violence.

Tri-Valley Haven raises awareness in the local middle schools and high schools, and our staff talks to our youth about healthy relationships and dating violence throughout the school year. Many of the students we speak with have witnessed abuse – in their lives, on their campus, through the media – but they’ve never had the opportunity to discuss what healthy relationships look like or what strategies to employ to stay safe. We practice these strategies with Livermore, Pleasanton, and Dublin youth and our surveys show that over 90% of the students learn tools to prevent bullying and dating abuse. We believe building a world without violence includes stopping violence before it begins.

In these difficult economic times, we are facing the double challenge of trying to meet a larger-than-ever demand for our services, at the same time that funding sources are dwindling. Recently we lost all federal and state funding for our youth education programs due to a cut in California funding. Yet teachers continue to request our presence in local middle schools and high schools, because our classes work. Our holiday program has signed up 1,000 more individuals than it did last year, but the funding for this program has gone down.

GT-STD-Web-Banner_250x250As a non-profit organization, we would not be able to provide these services without your generous support. We are so grateful for our Tri-Valley community. Your generosity has kept our doors open, kept our crisis line operating and given thousands upon thousands of families a safe place to go. Your donations have been critical through the years, but now more than ever we need your support.

Next Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 is #Giving Tuesday. After giving thanks on Thanksgiving and getting deals on Black Friday, this is the opportunity to begin a new tradition of giving!

Tri-Valley Haven asks you to envision a world without violence – and consider giving back on #GivingTuesday, December 2nd, next week. Together we will build a more peaceful society – one person, one family, one community at a time.

Visit our website at www.trivalleyhaven.org to donate.

Thank you!

 

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