Nonprofit Report | Tahoe Women’s Services | SierraSun.com

Nonprofit Report | Tahoe Women’s Services

Sara WeeTWS Prevention Program Coordinator, Special to Sun

In the last decade, several school shootings flooded national headlines, highlighting the incidence and tragic consequences of bullying. Bullying prevention and intervention efforts surged as a result, and though the problem is nowhere near “solved,” bullying is at least taken much more seriously. In the last year teen dating violence issues have taken over this spotlight. Perhaps bullying awareness opened society’s eyes to intersecting issues, especially teen dating violence. From the infamous Chris Brown and Rihanna incident, to the “Helen Keller” song (“Don’t Trust Me” by 3OH!3), to our local Brianna Denison’s rape and murder, to the recent gang-rape of a high school girl outside a Richmond, Calif. homecoming dance, all the way to the Twilight saga – yes, Twilight, with its perfected “bad-boy”-vampire-who-wants-to-kill-me-despite-his-severe-love-for-me teenage melodrama that romanticizes love and death, sex and violence. All are recent topics and trends drawing a bold arrow to issues within teen relationships.Perhaps it’s time to stop and take stock. Why is this happening? When did teen relationships “go bad?” For one, teen relationships evolve into adult relationships (and adult domestic violence trends haven’t been looking good for decades). Second, technology is changing the fundamentals of social interaction, which are not always good. Finally, we often undervalue the problems youth face until tragedy strikes. Columbine was the trigger for bullying prevention; were Chris Brown and Rihanna the trigger to take dating violence seriously? Or is there more to come?In Tahoe Women’s Services’ high school Violence Prevention Presentations we do an activity called, “The River of Rape Culture,” where we hurl a couple-dozen bean bags, which represent drowning victims, at a student volunteer and ask him/her to catch/”save” these metaphorically “drowning people” floating down a river.The key is to learn to ask, “Why are all these people falling into a river and drowning?” This question leads to the solution: Go upstream and search for the source of the problem (i.e.. Why are people raped and abused?) We then challenge the teens to empower themselves to change unhealthy patterns in their own lives and in their peers’ lives – a change that could lead to equality and healthy relationships instead of violence and abuse.The good news? They get it! Teens are smart, quick, savvy creatures. The bad news? It’s an overwhelming message easily forgotten or ignored amongst the other terrors of high school: Little sleep, grades, sports, clubs, college admissions, friends, family, etc. Life is not easy and we should take their plight seriously.Talk to your teen, support their character, and challenge any unhealthy or intolerant assumptions and habits they may be forming. Educate yourself. From the CDC, to the National Teen Dating Violence Network (Loveisrespect.org), to Tahoe Women’s Services (TWS) – information about teen relationships and abuse abounds. A club at Truckee High School called the Teen Speaker’s Bureau (TSB), a peer education and leadership group facilitated by TWS, is addressing the broader issue of violence against youth in a school assembly on Feb. 10.Teens are taking actionA Father-Daughter Dance, benefiting TWS, and encouraging father-daughter relationships is being held on Friday, Feb. 5, from 5:30-9 p.m. at the Tahoe Biltmore.Families are taking actionDia V: a Spanish production of the Vagina Monologues, which tells the many tales of different women’s experiences with relationships, love, violence, and sexuality is performing Saturday, Feb. 6 at the Boys & Girls Club in Kings Beach.Communities are taking actionTake actionVisit http://www.tahowomenservices.org for more information about the above events or to get involved.