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Not "As Seen on TV": Teaching SC Teens about Healthy Relationships

Posted by Ryan Morgan on January 03, 2014 at 2:37 PM
AlexisTell Them's January social media campaign asks organizations, programs, and businesses in South Carolina, “What are you doing in 2014 to encourage healthier youth in SC?” By Alexis Stratton, Prevention Education Coordinator at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands Many adults don’t take teens’ romantic relationships seriously. Perhaps they see dating through the lenses of their own youth or through the skewed visions provided by Hollywood movies and TV shows—the way when I was younger I thought my teenage relationships were supposed to be like the budding romances of Saved by the Bell or She’s All That. Or perhaps some look at teen dating with condescension, scowling at what they imagine is a generation gone wild. But in working with teens almost daily, I’ve grown to realize that young people’s relationships are neither like the movies nor like shocking stories ripped from the stage of the Dr. Phil Show. They are real and meaningful, and they matter. While these may be some of the first romantic relationships youth have, these early experiences can set teens up to repeat dating patterns in the future. And with about one in four teens experiencing emotional, physical, and sexual abuse from their romantic partners each year (Centers for Disease Control), those patterns can be pretty scary. This is why our full-time educators at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands teach middle and high schools students about healthy relationships through our six-session Youth Violence Prevention Program. By encouraging students to know their boundaries and be able to communicate them, to recognize the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, and to speak up for themselves and others, we empower youth to have healthier relationships, friendships, and, we hope, futures. Young people deserve our protection, and they also deserve to be taken seriously. They have visions for this world that we can only dream of, and if we help them to better know themselves and their boundaries, I think we have a bright future ahead of us—in South Carolina and beyond. For more information about the Youth Violence Prevention Program or to schedule a presentation, contact Alexis at pec@stsm.org or (803)790-8208. Visit STSM’s website to learn more about other programs in store for 2014, including the new Imagine If arts and anti-violence project and the annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event. Alexis Stratton is the Prevention Education Coordinator at Sexual Trauma Services of the Midlands, a Columbia-based non-profit organization that supports survivors in recovery from the trauma associated with sexual assault and abuse and educates the community to identify and prevent sexual violence. As a graduate of the University of South Carolina’s MFA in Creative Writing Program and Women’s and Gender Studies Program, Alexis has spent years working in the Columbia community (and beyond) to raise awareness about issues of gender-based violence and to empower community members to change the world around them.  

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