As a young person, it’s natural to seek independence and intimacy, but many people face violence when they hit the dating scene. Excessive attention, flattery, and rapid commitment might be interpreted as true love at first, and then over time it could feel controlling.
Domestic and Sexual Violence Support Services
In the most recent episode of The Power of Prevention Podcast, host Christin D’Ovidio is joined by two experts who support individuals in knowing the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. Joi Smith, Program Director at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and Emily Provencher, Prevention Coordinator at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, share information and resources that can assist youth, parents, and communities in preventing violence.
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) is the umbrella organization for 12 independent community-based programs across New Hampshire (NH). They are crisis centers that provide a broad range of supportive services for anyone who has been impacted by domestic and sexual violence, stalking, and human trafficking. Each center provides prevention, education, awareness, and outreach to local schools and communities around these issues. The NHCADSV provides the centers with support and training to implement best practice programming to address this important issue.
Education for Youth, Parents/Caregivers, and Communities
Early childhood experiences impact how we form relationships and treat each other in those relationships when we mature. Children who are exposed to unhealthy relationships may experience distrust in others and fear of emotional intimacy, which may cause them to avoid close relationships in the future. “Some children may also experience fear of abandonment or lack of self-esteem, which can lead them to be over-accommodating in relationships or dependent on others in order to feel loved,” said Smith. “It also puts them at a higher risk of being abused by a future partner.”
If a child lives in an environment where emotional or physical violence is modeled by the adults in their life, they may find themself reacting the same way when faced with conflict in their own relationships with others. This is also a risk factor for substance use and other risk behaviors. However, there are also many positive experiences that can offset this.
“Within our prevention education, we’re looking to combat negative exposures with some protective orders. Protective factors are a key component of all of our prevention education practices,” said Provencher. “Some examples include empathy, emotional health, and connectedness. Our prevention programming itself can function as a protective factor and our prevention educators and our prevention work advocates to build stronger protective factors across young people’s experiences.”
Crisis Center Prevention Educators partner with their local schools to provide age-appropriate prevention programming from kindergarten through 12th grade. Many provide prevention programming for their local colleges and universities, as well. Messaging promoted through the prevention programming helps children identify when something is making them feel uncomfortable and encourages them to be able to reach out for support and talk about the different supports that are available to them.
Helping Caring Adults Start the Conversation
It can be hard for parents and caring adults to talk about the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, especially as more relationships are taking place online. The Crisis Centers can help parents or other caring adults begin such a conversation.
“We want to make sure everybody feels healthy and safe at all times. And being able to open up those conversations can be challenging,” said Smith. “Our prevention educators and folks that work in outreach at our member programs can really help with that. A big part of their outreach efforts and their education efforts, is helping their communities really normalize talking about these issues.”
Talking with young people about all issues, like substance use and parental expectations, can also be uncomfortable but these skills are transferable for all conversations and are a strong protective factor.
NH Legal Requirements Aimed to Protect Our Children from Domestic or Sexual Violence
New Hampshire has mandatory reporting requirements and laws for children under the age of 18. If someone suspects there is domestic or sexual violence against a minor, the law requires them to report it. The Granite State Children’s Alliance provides in-person and online training on this law that readers may find useful.
The newly passed HB 1263 requires schools to deliver prescribed studies on health, physical education, wellness, and personal finance literacy in the school setting. “Our public affairs team worked alongside legislators and advocacy groups to provide technical expertise in reviewing the draft legislation and advocating for the state to include sexual violence prevention as a core requirement in the health curriculum in public schools,” said Emily Provencher, prevention coordinator at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
“We also conducted outreach to legislators to provide education on the importance of this policy and work to raise awareness in communities across the state. So, stakeholders understood the significance of this change. Before this, it was just up to schools to determine if they wanted to provide this education if they wanted to partner with their local crisis center. So, this is going to ensure that students across New Hampshire all get the opportunity to receive this education,” she said.