MARIETTA - EVE Inc. will soon be introducing a dating safety curriculum aimed at local middle and high school students.
"We got a grant from the HealthPath Foundation of Ohio. We were provided $5,000 to provide the Safe Dates program," said Annelle Edwards, co-executive director at EVE Inc., a nonprofit organization that offers protection, counseling and advocacy for victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.
The money will help pay for teaching materials and extra hours for EVE's prevention specialist to be in schools, she said.
To help get the word out about the new program, EVE recently started a Facebook page, EVE Safe Dates, that offers resources and articles that students might find helpful, said Edwards.
"We hope that students add it. It's got a lot of information that students will find interesting," she said.
According to Edwards, all Ohio public schools are already legally obligated to address the issue of dating violence with students.
Ohio Substitute House Bill 19, also known as "Tina's Law," stipulates that age-appropriate lessons in dating violence prevention be provided for students in grades seven through 12.
However, those at EVE are excited to offer the evidence-based Safe Dates program to area schools and organizations because it has already been proven very effective, said Edwards.
"They have research that shows the students who participated in the program showed 56 to 92 percent less physical and sexual dating violence than teens who did not participate," she said.
The program takes place over four sessions. It focuses on teaching students healthy dating behavior, causes of abuse and the consequences, resources to get help and skills to develop healthy relationships.
One of the benefits of the program is that it is interactive and allows for a lot of discussion among students, Edwards said.
Though she did not have local statistics available regarding teen dating violence, Edwards said her staff has noticed that stories of unhealthy relationships are prevalent in the schools they visit.
"I can tell you when our prevention specialists are out in the schools, they are always hearing about someone who is in an abusive relationship. They'll hear the kids talking about red flag behaviors that the kids don't even recognize," she said.
Students who have never been in an abusive relationship have often witnessed one, she said.
Marietta High School seniors Bill McAtee and Samantha Nelson witnessed one such relationship when they were at the mall with a friend.
"We came out into the parking lot and we thought this couple in the next car was kissing. Then I saw the guy was yelling in her face," said Nelson.
McAtee then witnessed the man, a teenager like himself, strike the girl.
"We saw them later at Olive Garden like nothing had happened," said McAtee
Said McAtee, it seems like a lot of teens stay in bad relationships because there is pressure in high school to be dating someone.
Added Nelson, that phenomenon seems to be even worse with younger youth.
"They are just trying to be more mature," she pointed out.
Not all signs of unhealthy relationships have to be as apparent as physical violence.
Marietta High School junior Carly Rankin said a lot of her peers put too much emphasis on constant communication.
"Some of my friends will text their boyfriend and if goes five minutes and he hasn't texted back they think 'Oh my God. He wants to break up with me.' No. He still cares about you," she said.
Rankin said she reserves conversations with her boyfriend for when they have something of note to share.
"It's not obsessive," she said.
Marietta High School seniors Lexi Walsh and Derek Amrine have been dating just shy of 11 months. They both said that they recognize some unhealthy habits in relationships around them and know to avoid them.
"You'll see where someone is being mistreated, talked down to, and they don't even know it," said Amrine.
It is hard to talk to your friends when you see them being mistreated, said Walsh.
"They make up excuses for their boyfriend or girlfriend," she said.
Edwards said there are several things people can do when they witness others in an abusive relationship. However, judging their choices and simply ordering them to end a relationship is rarely effective, she said.
"Listen to them. Be a support. Give them the resources they need. You can call the EVE hotline and talk to someone," said Edwards.
The Safe Dates curriculum is not only for a classroom setting. EVE Inc. pointed out that program could also be taught to after-school clubs, youth groups, Boy and Girl Scout groups, and more, said Edwards.
The program is open to any schools or organizations that request it. Any schools and groups interested in offering the curriculum can contact EVE at (740) 374-5820 and ask for prevention specialist Lashley Earley, said Edwards.