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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – UNCW and the Rape Crisis Center of Coastal Horizons Center, Inc. teamed up to help teach middle school students ways to prevent relationship abuse.
They have created a mentoring program using a curriculum called Safe Dates, and students from UNCW taught eighth grade students how to avoid potentially abusive relationships.
While middle school may seem a little young to start discussing such relationships, statistics show dating abuse can begin as early as sixth grade, and one in four high schools students has reported experiencing abuse.
"This partnership is an ideal fit because middle school students look up to the college students. They see them as trustworthy people they can respect,” explained Katie Bennett, rape prevention education coordinator for the Rape Crisis Center of Coastal Horizons Center.
Students at Holly Shelter Middle School learned more about attitudes and behaviors associated with dating abuse and violence Wednesday. The Safe Dates program helped them understand the prevalence of dating abuse and find ways to have equal communication with their partners, touching on subjects like oral sex and rape.
Instructors say they try to keep the information relevant, discussing YouTube, magazines and shows like MTV’s Teen, adding that they believe it is better to address tough topics before students get to high school.
Teachers also say anyone can become a victim of abuse, and that it doesn't have to be physical -- verbal and mental abuse is a nationwide problem.
Students say while such discussions are uncomfortable at times, the event made all the difference.
“My parents gave me a whole lecture, and these guys get right to the point and it’s more comfortable,” said one student at the event.
According to a press release, the program is part of a growing national movement aimed at ending violence with prevention –based education as opposed to the traditional victim-based education.
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