Safe Harbor Raises Awareness on Abuse

By ANDREW MOORE
THE SENECA DAILY JOURNAL – April 2, 2011

SENECA – The Upstate’s most active organization devoted to assist victims of domestic violence is reaching out to the area’s high-schoolers to teach them about the warning signs of abusive relationships.

Julie Meredith, communications director at Safe Harbor in Greenville, said Safe Harbor is offering a new program at three Upstate schools. Seneca High School, Wade Hampton High School and J.L. Mann High School are all participating in the “Relationship Awareness Project,” or RAP program.

It’s something to supplement Safe Harbor’s “Megan Project,” a 45-minute, one-time presentation offered annually at every high school in Oconee, Greenville, Pickens and Anderson Counties. Named after Megan Ridgeway, an 18-year-old who was murdered by her boyfriend at a Mauldin pool in 1997, that program isn’t falling by the wayside in lieu of the new, more intensive one.

“The Megan Project is still something we do. The Megan Project is a program where we go out to speak to students for 45 minutes to an hour to give them the basic information about relationship abuse – what the warning signs are, what the resources are if they are in danger,” Meredith said.

“However, we started realizing a one-time presentation for 45 minutes in a student’s life isn’t enough to give a student enough awareness about violence in relationships.”

Enter the RAP program, an in-depth program that offers a full class period of instruction once a week for an entire semester. It allows the same group of teens to delve into serious discussion on important questions, like what the warning signs of abuse are, and what are some contributing factors that may influence someone to choose violence. It also challenges the teens, Meredith said, to confront the social influences that condone or even encourage violence, such as violent lyrics in songs, and violence through television, internet and movies.

Just this week, the course instructor, AJ Jeffcoat challenged students to think about the words of the popular song “Love The Way You Lie,” by Rihanna and Eminem, which heavily stylizes the issue of domestic violence.

“Students are listening to that each and every day,” Meredith said.

It’s a course aimed at prevention, rather than intervention, she said, and its necessary. The most recent data available shows that females from the age of 16 to 24 are the most frequently abused, and one out of every three teens will experience some sort of violence in their relationship.

“We have found that there is some intervention that goes on, too. There are times, obviously, we may go to a school and start talking about abuse and realize students in the room have experienced violence,” she said.

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