Middle Way House's "Building Healthy Relationships" Curriculum FAQs

Below are the most frequently asked questions we receive.
What is the "Building Healthy Relationships" (BHR) program offered by Middle Way House?

Building Healthy Relationships (BHR) is an interactive, evidence-informed curriculum designed by Middle Way House (MWH) to prevent domestic and sexual violence. This program is offered to area middle schools, high schools, and youth-serving organizations. Over 2,000 Monroe County junior and senior high school students participated in BHR in 2019. When provided in-person, educators tailor presentations to fit the time frames and specific needs of each audience. BHR has been adapted in Canvas for MCCSC students and in Google Classroom for other students and the general public.

What is Middle Way House (MWH)?

MWHis a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking across Martin, Monroe, Morgan, Owen, Lawrence, and Greene counties in Indiana. Services include a 24/7 crisis line, 24/7 walk-in services, an emergency shelter, sexual violence support services, legal advocacy, support groups, transitional housing, and prevention education.

Middle Way House envisions a community where individuals live free from violence and the threat of violence; a community characterized by equality across the gender spectrum and social and economic justice; a community where everyone’s contribution is honored and individual and group differences are valued; a community where everyone is adequately fed, housed, educated and employed; a community that provides opportunities for meaningful participation, personal growth, and creative expression.

What topics does BHR cover?

BHR sessions address violence stereotypes, power and control behaviors in peer relationships, affirmative consent, boundaries, and bystander intervention & supporting friends.

Why does BHR exist?

Middle Way House believes that youth deserve the following:

  • access to accurate and age-appropriate information pertaining to relationship safety
  • affirmation, respect, and celebration of their unique identities, including gender expression and gender identity
  • peer relationships based in respect, trust and support, honesty and accountability, self-confidence and personal growth, shared power, communication, negation and fairness, and non-threatening behavior (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, 2017)
  • autonomy over their bodies and personal spaces
  • emotional, physical, and online boundaries that are respected
  • tools to support and advocate for peers experiencing unhealthy relationships
  • skills to intervene in unhealthy relationships
What are the goals of BHR?

Our objective is for participants to leave with the shared goal of preventing violence in the future and in possession of the skills to do just that. Specifically, we also have the following learning objectives:


  • Students will identify resources and services provided by Middle Way House.

Gender Stereotypes

  • Students will define the concepts of gender and stereotypes.
  • Students will recognize the connection between rigid stereotypes and gender-based violence.

Power & Control Behaviors

  • Students will recognize power and control-based behaviors in peer relationships.
  • Students will define datingviolence, stalking and human trafficking.

Affirmative Consent

  • Students will define sexual violence.
  • Students will recognize myths that perpetuate sexual violence.
  • Students will recognize core components of affirmative consent.
  • Students will understand the impact of laws pertaining to sexual activity and communication.


  • Students will recognize equity-based behaviors in peer-relationships.
  • Students will identify and communicate boundaries to peers.
  • Students will know strategies for navigating boundary conflicts. Bystander Intervention and Supporting Friends
  • Students will know strategies for peer survivor support and advocacy.
  • Students will know strategies for bystander intervention.
How was BHR developed and why are changes made to the curriculum?

The BHR curriculum has evolved from almost three decades of delivery in schools and youth-serving agencies. Originally developed and delivered part-time by MWH’s Crisis Intervention Specialists, BHR later inspired the creation of a Prevention Department at Middle Way House. In 2013 and 2014, Cierra Olivia Thomas-Williams, who solidified BHR’s five subject areas, won the Indiana Preventionist of the Year award. In 2017, Sam Harrell organized the curriculum into a usable facilitation guide. Current Prevention Coordinator Lindsey Badger has made updates to the curriculum as needed and converted it to online platforms for increased accessibility.

The BHR curriculum is evidence-informed. Its development and revisions respond to research evidence, youth diversity and identified needs, and theories on learning. The prevention team considers five characteristics when making revisions: relative advantage (is our current curriculum better than it was before?), compatibility (does the curriculum fit the intended youth audience?), complexity (is the curriculum easy to use for facilitators and volunteers?), trialability (can other staff or area providers try out the curriculum adopting it?), and observability (are the results of the curriculum visible and measurable?) (Oldenburg & Glanz, 2008).

What evidence informs the BHR curriculum generally?

Problem and Prevalence

  • In this curriculum, we will define teen dating violence as“the pattern of behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner.” Behaviors may include physical, emotional, sexual, financial, and/or verbal abuse.
  • We will define sexual violence as “anytype of non-consensual sexual contact or behavior.” Behaviors may include sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.
  • Dating and sexual violence represent public health crises. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP; 2006), 1.5 million U.S.high school students experience physical abuse from a dating partner each year. Approximately 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will experience sexual violence before age 18 (NSVRC, 2015). Transgender youth face a disproportionately high risk of sexual violence victimization (James et al., 2016).
  • Prevention education hopes to empower and equip students with information and skills needed to prevent violence. 7-12th grade is a critical time for intervention as students often develop violent behaviors between the ages of 12 and 18 (Rosado, 2000). In our experience, more information helps students find the language and resources to advocate for themselves and their friends.

Risk and Protective Factors

  • This curriculum addresses both sexual violence and teen dating violence because of their shared risk and protective factors. The CDCP’s 2014 report, Connecting the Dots, demonstrated shared evidence-based risk factors for perpetration of multiple forms of violence. Shared risk factors between teen dating violence and sexual violence included: cultural norms that support aggression towards others, harmful norms around masculinity and femininity, and a lack of non-violence social problem-solving skills (Wilkins, Tsao, Hertz, Davis, & Klevens, 2014).

Theoretical Approach

  • Following the lead of the CDCP, BHR has slowly shifted the focus of its prevention efforts to preventing perpetration, rather than solely promoting individual safety (Degue et al., 2012b). Using the social-ecological model, BHR addresses risk and protective factors for dating and sexual violence at the individual, relationship, community, and cultural/societal levels (DeGue, 2012a).

Methods of Engagement

  • BHR engages students in multiple ways, including discussions, role plays, surveys, gallery walks, team-based learning, and case scenarios. Multiple forms of engagement in sexual violence prevention programs have been associated with more positive outcomes (DeGue et al., 2014). Peer-to-peer interaction and activities are prioritized over the reading of statistics, as awareness-raising statistics have not demonstrated effects on student attitudes (Schewe, 2002). As recommended by the CDCP (2014), BHR provides information and engagement over multiple sessions to maximize the potential for attitude and behavior change. [Note: Although virtual formats can be somewhat limiting, the online version of BHR has been designed to maximize interaction, discussion, and activities.]

Social-Ecological Model

  • BHR follows the social-ecological model (SEM) used by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to guide program development (Dahlberg & Krug, 2002). This model recognizes four distinct and interconnected levels: individual, relationship, community, and society. Together, these levels construct a comprehensive image of risk and protective factors for experiencing and perpetrating violence. BHR uses the SEM to help illustrate how change at one level (e.g. individual) can influence other levels (e.g. communities).
  • At the individual level of the social-ecological model, BHR engages students in activities and discussions exploring how biological and personal histories influence individual attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
  • At the relationship level, BHR helps students examine close relationships and build skills in conflict resolution and communication.
  • At the community level, BHR encourages students to explore how school and neighborhood climates impact social relationships and behavior norms.
  • At the societal level, BHR asks students to reflect on how economic and social inequalities promote violence and what is needed to increase equity.
What evidence informs the BHR curriculum subjects?

Gender Stereotypes

  • Hyper-masculinity and belief in strict gender roles is one of many risk factors for intimate partner violence perpetration (Tharp et al., 2013; Vagi et al., 2013).BHR gives students space to explore gender schemas, sources of gender stereotyped information, and interpersonal responses to non-normative gender representation. Recognizing that the safety, attendance, and academic success of LGBTQ+ students relies on culturally competent practices, BHRuses gender-inclusive language(Greytak, Kosciw, & Diaz, 2009).A gender-inclusive design to violence prevention does not mean gender neutrality when describing gender-based violence. Reed, Raj, Miller, & Silverman (2010) urge practitioners to acknowledge that intimate partner violence is a gender-based issue, with women and girls overwhelmingly victim to it.

Power and Control Behaviors

  • Using social norms theory, we can posit that relationship behaviors are informed by students’ perceptions of their peers’ attitudes and behaviors (Miller et al., 2012). If we know that students are both influenced by peers and turn to peers when faced with relationship conflict (Liz Claiborne Inc., 2005), investing in peer education is vital. By equipping students with information to help them identify unhealthy behaviors (Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, 2017), BHR invests in violence prevention that has potential to continue beyond the classroom.

Affirmative Consent

  • Addressing sexual communication and consent protects against sexual violence by increasing awareness of perpetration risk (Basile et al., 2016). A survey of 217 straight male college students found that students who did not understand sexual consent were more likely to self-report recent sexually aggressive behavior (Warren, Swan, & Allen, 2015). Therefore, BHR explores consent principles through examples, discussions, and scenarios.
  • In a meta-analysis of 37 studies, Suarez & Gadalla (2010) found racism tobe positively associated with rate-myth acceptance. When teaching about sexual violence and affirmative consent, BHR facilitators return to the subjects of power and control and population-specific vulnerabilities.


  • In our experience, students often have language for setting boundaries but are ill-equipped to navigate boundary conflicts. Activities that allow students to practice and reinforce non-violent behavior and conflict resolution skills are considered important components of effective sexual violence prevention programs (Basile et al., 2016).

Bystander Intervention and Supporting Friends

  • Overwhelmingly, students turn to their friends, not adults and local professionals, for credible advice and information about relationships (Noonan & Charles, 2009).This tells us that investment in skills that promote peer-to-peer communication is invaluable in violence prevention. Effective programs help students think through what kind of immediate intervention is both safe and effective (Black, Tolman, Callahan, Saunders, & Weisz, 2008). Bystander intervention scenarios in the BHR middle school curriculum focus on a range of unhealthy behaviors that encourage students to think about how violence develops over time. This strategy is supported by research that says the prevention of “low-level” abuse (e.g. name-calling, humiliation) may be effective in preventing more serious forms of interpersonal violence (Noonan & Charles, 2009).
What evidence informs the BHR curriculum format?

Below is an outline of the nine principles associated with effective prevention programs as identified by Nation, et al. (2003).Following each principle is commentary on the BHR curriculum.


  • Prevention programs should utilize multiple interventions in multiple settings (Nation et al., 2003). The BHR curriculum combines interventions focused on resource information, awareness, skill development, and skill practice. BHR addresses risk and protective factors for multiple social-ecological settings, including school and community norms. BHR staff provide a prevention 101 training to social service providers, college students, and community groups upon request.

Varied Teaching Method

  • Prevention programs should use a varied teaching method with an emphasis on interactive and skill-based activities (Nation et al., 2003). BHR uses a combination of small and large group discussions, lectures, group writing activities, games, role plays, and case studies to engage students.

Sufficient Dosage

  • Prevention programs should expose students to sufficient dosage of programming (Nation et al., 2003). Dosage can include the duration of the total program, as well as the length, quantity, and spacing of individual sessions. Follow-up activity or sessions are generally recommended. Over three decades, BHR has worked with schools to occupy 4-5 hours of class time across 3-5 consecutive days. While consecutive day spacing is not preferable, it is conducive to most existing syllabi. Staff can provide additional sessions if class time allows. BHR has not historically provided follow-up materials or visits but intends to explore this option further.


  • Prevention programs should use theory-driven interventions based in research (Nation et al., 2003). BHR uses the social-ecological theory to identify risk and protective factors that influence violence across four factors: individual, relationship, community, and society (Dahlberg & Krug, 2002).

Positive Relationships

  • Prevention programs should promote strong, positive relationships (Nation et al., 2003). BHR enhances peer relationships by helping students develop skills in peer-advocacy, positive norm change, and bystander intervention. Additionally, BHR promotes social connectedness as a protective factor against dating and sexual violence.

Appropriately-Timed Interventions

  • Prevention programs should occur at a time in a student’s life when they will have maximum impact (Nation et al., 2003). Violent behaviors typically develop between the ages of 12 and 18 (Rosado,2000). In response, BHR has historically been delivered at the 7th and 10th grade year. In 2018, Middle Way House also launched an elementary-focused social-emotional learning curriculum intended to build protective factors early.

Socio-Culturally Relevant

  • Prevention programs should be relevant to community norms, cultural beliefs, and practices (Nation et al., 2003). Participants should be included in the planning and implementation of programs. BHR utilizes a variety of resources to maximize socio-cultural relevancy, such as student feedback cards, undergraduate social work intern perspectives, and best practice research for working with marginalized communities. Historically, high school and college interns have assisted with program delivery to enhance youth relevancy. BHR staff are currently working on a strategic plan to increase representation of people of color in program facilitation.

Outcome Evaluation

  • Prevention programs should have outcome evaluation measures in place and not rely too heavily on anecdotal evidence (Nation et al., 2003). BHR uses anonymous student questions and feedback, as well as pre- and post-surveys to collect data.

Well-Trained Staff

  • Prevention programs should be staffed by competent providers with strong training, support and supervision. BHR coordinators have included people with relevant Bachelor’s degrees, MSWs, and PhDs - all with relevant experience working with youth and diverse populations. The coordinator supervises a team of part-time staff and undergraduate social work interns.
What are the BHR program values?


  • We care about what you have to say and therefore need people to speak oneat a time. If you tend to speak a lot, make space for others by listening more this week. If you tend to listen a lot, we hope you’ll consider speaking more.


  • Sometimes people laugh at sad or violent things because they are nervous, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar. We are going to ask that we don’t laugh at sad or violent things this week. If you do, we may ask you to step out to gather your thoughts so that you can re-enter the room in a more respectful manner.


  • We will not share your personal stories and experiences unless you tell us that a minor, older adult, or person with a disability is experiencing abuse, or that you intend to hurt yourself or others. This is because we are mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect. We ask that you also respect your classmates’ confidentiality this week.


  • If you disagree with something that is said this week, or you feel frustrated or confused by a topic, please ask questions! Likely, someone else is thinking the same thing. We all learn more when we act with curiosity.


  • We will always give you a heads-up before discussing a potentially sensitive topic so that you can decide if you feel comfortable participating. We ask that you do the same for others. Remember, this curriculum is optional and you can step out at any time. You do not need to raise your hand. An advocate will come out to see if you’d like to talk. If you don’t want to talk, that is okay.
How does mandatory reporting play a role in BHR?

MWH begins each lesson reviewing ground rules, including the limits of confidentiality. If a MWH staff person, volunteer, or intern are informed of abuse or neglect, they must follow the protocol below:

  1. Before the conversation with the student ends, the MWH person reminds the student that they are mandated to report the abuse and/or neglect to the school counselor/social worker and the Department of Child Services.
  2. The MWH person asks the student if they would like the MWH person to accompany them to speak with the counselor/social worker.
    • If the student says yes, the MWH person will briefly inform the teacher that they will be accompanying the student to the office.
    • If the student does not say yes, the MWH person will ask them if they have any questions about what reporting means and the potential outcomes. If the student does not say yes, and the abuse/neglect disclosed does not pose an immediate threat, the MWH person will wait until the next break in classes to consult with the Lead MWH Facilitator. The Lead MWH Facilitator will accompany the MWH person to report to the school.
  3. After the report is made to the school, the Lead MWH Facilitator (along with any other MWH person the abuse/neglect was disclosed to) will call-in a report to the Department of Child Services Hotline.
  4. All MWH people involved will complete an internal report, which includes whether or not a DCS report was made and an explanation.

Note: It is not MWH’s role to interview the student or investigate the claims. MWH assesses for immediate safety and facilitates safety planning as appropriate with MWH resources. MWH’s main objective is to provide active listening, support, and options.

What informs how facilitators work with diverse groups of students, including English Language Learners, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, and students of color?

Considerations for English Language Learners

Nine percent of students in U.S. public schools are English Language Learners (ELLs)(Gonzalez, 2014). Below are tips for supporting ELL students when teaching the curriculum (Gonzalez, 2014):

  • Make it visual: write instructions on the board, use pictures and diagrams, and demonstrate tasks
  • Communicate with the ELL teacher: if possible, contact the ELL teacher ahead of time for more specific ways to support the ELL student(s) you’ll be teaching
  • Avoid solo reading tasks: use groups for scenario-based activities and ask a volunteer to read the text aloud for the group; allow students to help one another with surveys and worksheets
  • Provide sentence frames for discussion: such as “I agree with _______ because” or “in my experience, ______”
  • Learn name pronunciations: check in with the classroom teacher and the student about correct name pronunciations; write yourself a note, if needed

Considerations for Students with Disabilities

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2018), thirteen percent of students in U.S. public schools have disabilities.Below are tips for supporting students with disabilities when teaching the curriculum (ADA Hospitality, n.d.):

  • Visuals: use at least 22-point dark font on a light background; describe meaningful graphics and charts
  • Videos: use closed captions when playing videos
  • Interpreters: if there is a sign language interpreter, wait for them before beginning the session, face the audience, speak at a normal rate
  • Audio: ensure one student speaks at a time
  • Participation: offer multiple ways students can respond to question prompts (e.g. raising hands, calling out, standing, nodding)
  • Space: ensure that alternative desk arrangements allow for navigation in a wheelchair

Considerations for LGBTQ+ students

LGBTQ+ youth experience disproportionately high rates of dating violence (Dank, Lachman, Yahner, & Zweig, 2013). Below are tips for supporting LGBTQ+ students when teaching the curriculum:

  • Use “partner” instead of girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Use the gender-neutral pronoun “they/them” rather than “he/she” in activity scenarios
  • Help students notice when they make assumptions about gender and sexuality in activity scenarios
  • Share your own gender pronouns with students
  • If you do not know a student’s gender pronouns, refer to them with neutral pronouns
  • Interrupt and educate if students make homophobic or transphobic jokes

Considerations for Students of Color

In the past few years, discourse surrounding racism, power, and white supremacy has soared into the mainstream and students are listening. When discussing issues of violence, it is critical that educators understand and acknowledge how students of color face different and extensive barriers to justice and healing.

  • Don’t ignore race (Lee, 2012).Students of color experience disproportionately high rates of dating and sexual violence. A colorblind approach to violence prevention will only exacerbate such vulnerability. Consult literature and data on how white supremacy impacts responses to students of color who have both experienced and perpetrated dating and sexual violence.
  • Remember that communities of color are not monolithic (Lee, 2012).Check assumptions that generalize student of color experiences. Actively listen to students and use activities and discussions to learn more about student experiences. Foster and model empathy and willingness to engage with complexity.
  • Self-awareness is key (Lee, 2012).Reflect on your own comfortability discussing race. Students of all races are living with the impact of white supremacist systems. Do not underestimate their ability to critically engage with questions about equity and harm.
  • Address strong emotions (Teaching Tolerance, 2017). There is no correct response to systems of white supremacy. In discussions about race, students may experience many feelings, including passivity, sadness, anger, guilt, shame, or pain. Remain calm, monitor classroom tension, and refer to the Teaching Tolerance “Let’sTalk: Discussing Race, Racism, and Other Difficult Topics with Students” guide.
What skills and resources do facilitators use for classroom management during in-person BHR classes?
Modeling Skills: This curriculum introduces students to many skills they have not yet encountered. To help participants best learn these skills, model them throughout your delivery by:
  • Being friendly, warm, relaxed and calm to engage participants
  • Demonstrating good verbal and nonverbal communication skills to convey interest and enthusiasm with your words and body language
  • Demonstrating positive regard, respect and non-judgment
Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment: Discussions and activities may touch upon participants’ own experiences, memories, feelings and reactions to past or current events. It is important that facilitators work to make the environment as safe and supportive as possible. Facilitators are expected to:
  • Review the ground rules at the beginning of each day
  • Discuss the content ahead of each day and the potential for it to touch on distressing or personal experiences
  • Moderate or stop any discussions that become harmful
  • Provide time and space for one-on-one discussions after each session Listen without judgment
  • Have information about other community services readily available
  • Learn and use participants’ names
  • Limit lecture time by engaging participants in dialogue
  • Acknowledge participants’ existing knowledge and experiences with the material
  • Give feedback in a sensitive way, asking, “What went well?”and“What could be better?”
  • Be aware of quiet or shy participants
  • Emphasize both speaking and listening as important participation skills
Utilizing Participatory Learning: Participants will have the opportunity to practice skills in a safe environment where they can receive feedback and learn from one another. Some participants may feel shy participating in interactive activities. Acknowledge that it takes courage to risk making mistakes in front of peers, and that mistakes are an important part of the learning process. Tips for encouraging participation include:
  • Learn and use participants’ names
  • Limit lecture time by engaging participants in dialogue
  • Acknowledge participants’ existing knowledge and experiences with the material
  • Give feedback in a sensitive way, asking, “What went well?”and“What could be better?”
  • Be aware of quiet or shy participants
  • Emphasize both speaking and listening as important participation skills
Time Management: Classroom size and the amount of time per session varies school to school. This requires facilitators to plan ahead for how they will move through activities. When creating a class outline, prioritize answering anonymous questions at the beginning of the session, and time to write anonymous questions at the end. When preparing activities, plan ahead for changes to group size and total class processing time. Make use of the Parking Lot method to “park” ideas in the corner of the whiteboard if they are off-topic or time is running short. Consider using Temperature Checks to assess class comprehension or readiness to switch topics/activities. Be aware of school activities that may interrupt sessions, including announcements, lunch breaks, independent reading, field trips, and introductory activities led by the classroom teacher.
Experiences of Trauma: There is no correct way to respond to trauma. We should be prepared for a range of student responses to information about domestic and sexual violence, including humor, anger, sadness, numbness, and defiance. We want students to feel empowered to make decisions about their personal capacity to hear and discuss potentially triggering information.
Tools: If you detect distress from a student, remind them that it is okay to step out of the classroom. If the classroom culture indicates that social stigma would be tied to this decision, initiate a restroom break to allow a student to exit with less notice. Be aware of students who are exhibiting less observable trauma responses (e.g. freezing, head down). Ask an On Scene Advocate to check in and offer support.
Cognitive Dissonance: For many students, information about healthy relationships will create cognitive dissonance (inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change(Oxford Dictionaries Online, 2018)). Perhaps what is considered “healthy” in their home environment is inconsistent with what is considered “healthy” in this curriculum. Or maybe they identify their own behaviors on the Power & Control Wheel, inconsistent with their view of themselves and their values.
Tools: Take advantage of professional disclosure to show you can relate to learning this information for the first time. Expect students to experience confusion, frustration, and skepticism and validate those feelings. Healthy relationship information is counter to the dominant narrative in our society. Refrain from comments or judgements about students’ families or communities. Normalize everyone’s potential to do harm and model interpersonal accountability.
New Classroom Management Style: As a short-term, activity-based violence prevention program, Building Healthy Relationshipsmay utilize a different approach to classroom management than the classroom teacher. This shift in the classroom environment may result in confusion and conflict.
Tools: Begin each session with a review of the Program Values and refer back to them when conflict arises. Communicate with the lead teacher proactively, discussing how you will respond to classroom conflict during the program.
Peer-to-Peer Power Dynamics: Invisible social norms can create dynamics in a classroom that hinder safe communication, vulnerability, and creativity among students. Pay attention to social dynamics in the classroom. Does one student’s voice silence others? Do students have meaningful conversations in small groups but feel uncomfortable reporting back to the larger class? Is the classroom norm individual work, as opposed to group dialogue?
Tools: Utilize equitable facilitation practices to increase participation and to make sharing ideas feel safe. Such practices include writing exercises, gallery walks,and 2-4-whole discussions. Rearrange small groups to avoid dominant voices silencing others. Introduce guidelines to regulate group discussions, such as move up, move up or three-then-me. Utilize a circle seating arrangement to redirect student focus on the group and encourage active listening.
Adult-to-Youth Power Dynamics: Adultism can create many barriers for students engaging with the curriculum. Studentsmay assume we do not honor them as experts of their own lives, or want to hear their experiences of issues facing youth. They may fear we will make assumptions about their experiences based on our own lives and patronize them. These feelings may result in dismissiveness and low engagement.
  • Being friendly, warm, relaxed and calm to engage participants
  • Demonstrating good verbal and nonverbal communication skills to convey interest and enthusiasm with your words and body language
  • Demonstrating positive regard, respect and non-judgment
Tools: Listen more than you speak. Avoid making assumptions about students based on personal or media-depicted representations about youth. If you have questions about how something pertains to students lives, ask. Use a strengths-based approach with students, recognizing their resiliency, ingenuity, and skill.
As a parent/supporter of a young person, how can I play a role in teen violence prevention and support for teens who have experienced violence?
Below are excerpts from an excellent handout called “Understanding Sexual Violence: Tips for Parents & Caregivers of Children” written by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC; 2015):
Your Role in Prevention: You can play a role in changing the attitudes and culture that promote sexual violence. Traditional gender roles, power imbalances, and victim-blaming all contribute to sexual violence. Be a part of the solution:
  • Be a role model for respectful behavior to those around you
  • Talk with your children about healthy sexual development and personal boundaries
  • Intervene and speak up when you see inappropriate behavior. To better equip yourself in these situations, practice what you might say or do
  • Talk to someone from your local sexual assault center for more information. Invite them to speak in your schools, faith communities or workplaces
  • Learn more about sexualviolence and share information with others.Know how to report suspected child abuse. Take action if you or someone you know suspects a child may be being abused

How You Can Help

  • Parents and caregivers are uniquely positioned to assist children and teensexperiencing sexual violence, as they often see the warning signs —sudden changes in behavior or mood, lower grades, social withdrawal —before others
  • Children and teens may turn to you to discuss what is happening. All adults are responsible for keeping children safe and protecting them from harm
  • If you suspect a child is being abused, you might contact the police, your local child protective services agency, and/or a local sexual violence program
  • Create a safe place for the child or teen to talk and share. Allow them control over the environment as much as possible
  • Listen and allow them to share the information that they are comfortable sharing. If a survivor wants to share with you, allow them to do so in their own way, words, and timeframe
  • Believe them. Survivors often struggle with disclosing abuse because they fear they won’t be believed. It takes immense bravery for them to trust you and share the details of what happened
  • Be open and honest about your responsibilities. Children and teens have a right to be safe, valued and respected. Connect them with community resources or trained professionals to provide continued support
As a parent/caregiver of a young person, how can I talk with teens about healthy relationships?
Below are excerpts (with pronouns changed) from an excellent handout called “10 Tips on Taking about Healthy Relationships with Teens” written by Futures without Violence (2015):
  • Encourage open, honest, and thoughtful reflection. Talk openly with young teens about healthy relationships. Allow them to articulate their values and expectations for healthy relationships
  • Be sensitive and firm. Parenting a young teen is not easy—especially when it comes to helping them navigate their way through relationships. To be effective, you will need to find the balance between being sensitive and firm. Try to adapt to the changes faced by your child. Be willing to talk openly and respect differences of opinion. And, realize that the decisions you make will sometimes be unpopular with your young teen
  • Understand teen development. Adolescence is all about experimentation. From mood swings to risk taking, “normal teenage behavior” can appear anything-but-normal. New research, however, reveals that brain development during these formative years play a significant role in young teen’s personality and actions. Knowing what’s “normal” is critical to helping you better understand and guide young people
  • Understand the pressure and the risk teen’s face. Preteens and young teens face new and increasing pressures about sex, substance abuse and dating. Time and time again, young teens express their desire to have parents/role models take the time to listen to them and help them think through the situations they face –be that person!
  • Take a clear stand. Make sure young teens know how you feel about disrespect, use of abusive or inappropriate language, controlling behavior, or any forms of violence
  • Make the most of "teachable moments". Use TV episodes, movies, music lyrics, news, community events or the experiences of friends to discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships
  • Discuss how to be an "upstander". Teach teens how to stand-up for friends when they observe unhealthy treatment of their peers
  • Accentuate the positive. Conversations about relationships do not need to focus solely on risky behavior or negative consequences. Conversations should also address factors that promote healthy adolescent development and relationships
  • Be an active participant in your young teen's life. Explore ways to know more about your young teen’s friends and interests. Find activities you can do together
  • Be prepared to make mistakes. You will make mistakes. Accept that you will make mistakes but continue to help teens make responsible choices while trying to maintain that delicate balance of being sensitive, but firm
How can educators create trauma-informed classrooms?
Below are excerpts from an excellent educator guide called Creating Trauma-Informed Classrooms written by the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center (2016) in Renton, Washington:
Supporting students who have experienced sexual assault
  • Support and believe the young person. Survivors of sexual assault who are believed are much more likely to continue seeking help. If a student discloses sexual assault, thank them for telling you and state that you believe them
  • Work with the student to understand their safety concerns. Title IX protects the right of all students to receive an education free from sexual violence. Safety accommodations at school cannot over-burden the survivor or limit their access to educational or extracurricular opportunities. Survivors of sexual assault can often identify unsafe aspects of their environment that may not be easily seen by others. Ask the question: “How can I help make school feel safer for you?"
  • Have a system in place for students who need to miss class time. A student who has experienced sexual assault or other trauma may need to be absent for a variety of reasons including: physical/mental health concerns, participation in the criminal justice process, or as part of their safety plan. Set clear expectations and develop ways for students to stay current on their school work; it can be helpful to create assignment packets that can be completed at home
  • Understand the importance of confidentiality. Many young people who have experienced sexual violence fear telling their peers, families, and communities about the assault. Confidentiality is important for a variety of reasons, including: threats of bullying and harassment, fears of not being believed, and safety concerns. Respect the right of students to tell their own story when they feel it is appropriate. Be clear about the limitations of confidentiality in your role as a mandated reporter and include information about other people you may be required to inform, including family members and other school staff. Assure the student that you will not discuss the matter with anyone who does not need to be directly involved
Creating trauma-informed spaces for all students
  • Set clear expectations and boundaries. Many survivors of sexual violence report feelings of betrayal after the assault. Educators can help to rebuild a survivor’s ability to trust by setting clear expectations, boundaries, and establishing predictable routines
  • Be aware of potential triggers when assigning difficult content. Give advanced notice of traumatic events that occur within class materials such as books, movies, or other media. Provide opportunities for alternative assignments for students who may be triggered by class content. Debrief as a class; provide further education on difficult topics such as sexual assault. Reach out to your local community sexual assault program if you would like support in having this conversation or suggestions on materials to use
  • Provide resources that students can access independently. Inform students who they can turn to for support within the school, such as a counselor, and offer to assist them in getting connected with that person. If a young person is not ready to speak with school staff, they may be willing to seek outside help
  • Encourage self-care. Sexual assault and other traumatic experiences can be difficult topics to discuss for any student. Create space within your classroom for students to take meaningful breaks from the material. Work to create a classroom culture that normalizes self-care so as not to stigmatize students who do take breaks
  • Leave the door open. A student may not be ready to reach out for help in the moment, but it is important to let youth know that they can seek support at any time
What is Heather’s Law?
BHR helps fulfill “Heather’s Law,” requiring Indiana schools to educate students on dating violence. The law is named after Heather Norris, a woman from Indianapolis who was murdered by her boyfriend in 2007(The Indy Channel, 2010). Below is the text from “Heather’s Law” (Indiana Code 20-19-3-10):
Dating violence educational materials
  • Sec. 10 (a) The department, in collaboration with organizations that have expertise in dating violence, domestic violence, and sexualabuse, shall identify or develop:
    • (1) model dating violence educational materials; and
    • (2) a model for dating violence response policies and reporting. Not later than July 1, 2011, the department shall make the models developed or identified under this section available to assist schools with the implementation of dating violence education programs in grades 6 through 12 and dating violence response policies
  • (b) The model dating violence policy identified or developed under subsection (a) may include the following topics:
    • (1) Warning signs of dating violence.
    • (2) The basic principles of dating violence prevention.
    • (3) Methods of parental education and outreach.
(for both this FAQ and the BHR curriculum)
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