A new horde of facilitators for a domestic and family violence and sexual assault prevention program is ready to go into Eurobodalla schools.
Love Bites, a program promoting respectful relationships for young people, is delivered in schools by local service providers including youth workers, sexual assault workers, domestic violence workers and police.
Love Bites training facilitator Julie Mead, who is also from Eurobodalla Family Support, said the program was run successfully in Eurobodalla schools up until two years ago, when tender arrangements changed.
Impact Eurobodalla and Eurobodalla Family Support ran the Love Bites training recently to return it to the community.
Training last week coincided with Homelessness Prevention Week, recognising that domestic and family violence is the major driver of homelessness.
Training was also held in April, and now 24 local workers are ready to deliver the program to 15 and 16-year-olds in the shire’s five high schools, starting with St Peter’s Anglican College this month.
Ms Mead said Love Bites facilitators did not actually “teach” students, but rather worked to challenge their perceptions.
“We run activities, we show videos and we’re open for discussion,” she said.
“We’re trying to plant a seed about saying no to violence, about giving the young people different choices and building and having healthy, respectful relationships.
“A lot of how we are is how we’re raised, so we’re not going to say, ‘well no, that’s wrong’, but if you’ve grown up in a family that believes that, say, if women dress a certain way they’re going to be sexually assaulted, we want to say, ‘why isn’t everyone sexually assaulted on the beach, or how come young girls of different cultures who are totally
covered get sexually assaulted as well?’
“I’m just challenging what you’re thinking.”
The program now features information relevant to the digital age, including advice on ‘sexting’ and its consequences.
Ms Mead said it was important to instil respectful values in teenagers, with the hope they would continue through life.
“I believe that the role models that young people are getting, whether it be through the internet, magazines, or any media, I don’t think we’re sending the right message to our boys and our girls,” she said.
“We’re not talking about safe sex, that’s important, but we’re talking about consent, responsibility and rights and about crossing the line.
“You know when you’ve gone too far and you need to pull back and you need to show respect.
“It’s a real community-based program that we really need to get back into our schools.”