and#8216;Wall of Respectand#8217; educates high school teens |

and#8216;Wall of Respectand#8217; educates high school teens

TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; Each year, nearly 1.5 million high school students in the United States report being physically abused by their dating partner, and far more are the victims of verbal and emotional abuse. Sixteen percent of Tahoe Truckee Unified School District high school students, responding to a recent survey, reported they have experienced an unhealthy dating relationship, and nearly three in four students said they know a friend who has experienced dating abuse.

Teen dating violence is an unfortunately common problem among youth, and one that can have long-lasting effects on both victims and perpetrators. Teen Speakers Bureau in Truckee High School and Peace Project in Incline High School, prevention programs of Tahoe SAFE Alliance, are educating their school communities about the significance of healthy relationships and respect.

The mission of these peer leadership groups is youth dedicated to reducing the incidence and trauma of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse and promoting the practice of healthy relationships in peer groups, school and communities through education and awareness. The youth envision their communities, schools and peer groups living free from violence and recognize peer education and advocacy as a vital tool for empowerment and breaking cycles of violence.

High school students who attend these weekly peer leadership groups are taught, the roots of violence; mediaand#8217;s influence on teens; setting boundaries and warning signs of domestic and dating violence. An open forum is used so students may discuss other issues as well.

The peer leadership groups conducted a and#8220;Respect for Alland#8221; project in middle schools. Teen Speakers Bureau and Peace Project spent time with middle school students discussing the importance of respect. Each middle school student had the opportunity to creatively show their definition of respect, with the resulting artwork then pieced together as a and#8220;Wall of Respect.and#8221; This project coincided with National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month in February.

While schools and counselors do a lot to promote the development of healthy relationships, it is also great to have students teaching each other the importance of positive relationships and warning signs of not-so-healthy relationships.

For questions or comments regarding Teen Speakers Bureau or Peace Project, contact Cynthia Villalobos at

and#8212;-Cynthia Villalobos is an Americorps volunteer and outreach coordinator at Tahoe SAFE Alliance

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