S.O.F.I.A.’s Teen Healthy Relationship Workshop Leaves a Lasting Impression
Teens and young people experience abuse in intimate relationships at disproportionately high levels. Continuing the work reflected in the Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (S.O.F.I.A.) tag-line, “With Awareness There is Hope,” the non-profit’s Teen Safe Dating and Healthy Relationship Workshops ensure that young people learn about the warning signs, negative effects, and strategies to help themselves and their peers develop healthy intimate relationships in an interactive and relatable environment.
Presenters, who are trained as Domestic Violence Response Team members, use examples from social media, celebrity news, real life, and even their own experiences to share recognizable situations that delve deeper than cut and dry lists and consequences. Materials are used to supplement and encourage the interactive style of each workshop. With an emphasis on a non-judgmental and inclusive focus, participants take a “quiz” that includes surprising statistics and read aloud from Tweets that emphasize the range included in abusive relationships as well as the reasons some victims may choose to stay in an unhealthy situation.
“After every workshop, we have a few participants approach us with concerns for a friend or family member,” shares Kristin Wald, a regular workshop leader. “It’s clear that helping young people recognize and name abusive behaviors is incredibly important.”
An often moving moment in the Teen Safe Dating workshops is the final activity, when every participant stands and recites a pledge to value a partner’s boundaries, as well as their own, whether they are physical, emotional, sexual, financial or digital. “Even teens who don’t take it seriously can understand the impact of the words,” said Cynthia Walker, S.O.F.I.A.’s founder, “Our goal is to build awareness, and by reciting and reading the Pledge, we know each teen has experienced its meaning. As have their peers.”
The S.O.F.I.A. Teen Safe Dating Workshop has been presented to small groups, classes, and even in auditorium presentations. The values shared and awareness that Love is Respect resonate with both the young people and the adults in their lives. It is not unusual for S.O.F.I.A. to receive requests for repeat workshops and presentations that continue the themes discussed. The Teen Safe Dating and Healthy Relationship workshops help S.O.F.I.A. promote that truly, “With Awareness There is Hope.” By Kristin Wall, S.O.F.I.A. Teen Dating/Outreach Presenter