The course a “Safe Dates” is designed to help girls develop healthy relationships, identify unhealthy ones, and make exit strategies when necessary.
A word like "melon," could mean more than just tasty fruit, espcially to young girls facing the potiential threat of abusive relationships.
For the past eight weeks, the students at PACE Center for Girls Volusia Flagler have been learning about the importance of developing healthy relationships, identifying characteristics of unhealthy ones, and creating exit strategies if a relationship becomes unsafe through the Domestic Abuse Council's "Safe Dates" program. One of those exit strategies is having a code word they can safe to friends or family to alert them that they need help.
Education Specialist for the Volusia County Domestic Abuse Council Micky Beauregard said a very eye-opening lesson for the girls what the strategy plan of breaking up with an abusive boyfriend through text.
"At first they just said 'That's not fair,'" she said. "But I told them that you don’t owe them fair if they’re abusing you. You don’t even have to call. You can text them “We’re done,” and that's it. It was a lightbulb moment."
By the end of the course, the girls will have developed their own safety plan as well as learned how to help a friend.
PACE Spirited Girls teacher Susan Miller stated in a press release that one out of every three teenagers have been exposed to either physical or emotional abuse, and creating an individualized safety plan is crucial as the enter the dating scene.
"We hope they will never need the plan, but if they do, they are equipped," she said. "There is power in knowledge, which means the cycle can be broken for the next generation."
PACE student Jabrea* shared that she learned to have a secret code word to let people close to her know would mean you were in trouble and needed immediate assistance. Kianna* said that she learned that if you are in a bad relationship you need to get out and to know that you can do better for yourself.
Beauregard said out of all the groups she has taught, the PACE girls were very attentive and interested in making sure the plan they put together was rock solid.
“There were several girls that hold on to the belief that they would fight back and not let a 'unhealthy' relationship continue," she said. "Then we had to discuss how their violence could put them at more risk. There was also some 'ah-hah' moments when we discussed jealousy as a part of power and control and isolating them. Some girls had portrayed jealousy as "cute" and not realized that it was about the lack of trust which leads to unhealthy habits."
Anyone interested in getting more information on the "Safe Dates" course can email Beauregard at [email protected].