To say understanding how to date safely is of great importance is a rather obvious statement, but too often knowing exactly what treatment is acceptable and what isn’t is anything but, resulting in abuse.
Raising awareness on that subject is the aim of the ongoing safe dates program, in which Child Advocacy Services (CAS) and the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Juvenile Justice Division have teamed up to educate youth about what is and isn’t a good relationship and recognition of the signs of dating violence.
The six sessions each cover a specific topic, those including defining caring relationships, dating abuse, the reasons why people abuse, how to help friends and preventing sexual assault. The classes are being held at the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office Juvenile Justice Center on Paul Maillard Road in Luling.
“It’s known that many incidents are not reported, whether it’s between two people in an abusive relationship, understanding how we should be treated or how we may help a friend who is being abused in a situation,” said Angela Golden, who is teaching the course. “A lot of times, kids don’t see themselves as being in an abusive relationship. They think that can’t happen to me, I’m a child … we argue and that’s part of love.
“The curriculum is aimed at showing teens that’s not love and that’s not what love looks like. Kids are verbally abused or even sexually assaulted, and that’s not love.”
Golden said many students who have been in the program — this is her first full curriculum taught in St. Charles Parish, but she has taught Safe Dates elsewhere — may have seen it happen with their parents or between other adults in a relationship, and thus dismiss it as normal or a part of regular growing pains within a relationship.
“The biggest thing is they recognize some of the violence in there on both sides. It’s not healthy if he hits me or I hit him back,” Golden said.
While the curriculum is preventative, Golden said it’s not out of the question that teens in the class may have already experienced abuse. In those cases, the program serves to fortify their understanding that getting out was the right decision.
Golden said she’s never sure how the students will take to the program early on, so she looks to lighten the mood with some humor and make sure the class participants feel its collaboration.
“Once they know Miss Angela is talking with them and not talking at them, things tend to loosen up,” she said.
This particular class has brought a strong round of participation with it, though.
“They came in and they’re receptive. I didn’t know if they would be,” she said. “They’ve been sharing and we’re all talking and communicating.”
That’s part of what makes this such a rewarding experience for Golden.
“Just through having conversations with them, they’re seeing another person in their life that cares about them and wants to help them. It tells them they’re worth something, that they mean something to someone and can talk to someone outside of their family and outside of school. That’s most rewarding to me,” Golden said. “I never go in with the expectation kids are going to open up, so when I can connect and bond with them and they take it to heart? That’s when I feel fulfilled.”