Family Advocacy Program addresses teen dating topic at event

Using the traditional heart-shaped candy with messages, the 88th Air Base Wing’s Family Advocacy Program gave a presentation recently at the Prairies Youth Center about teen dating violence. The program provided an example of how different people receive different meanings from a single message.

Although most of the children in attendance were under the “dating” age, Beverley Knight-Stukenborg, outreach manger and social worker, had the perfect way to engage them and encourage their participation. She passed out packages of the candy to each child and had them separate their candies into piles of what they perceived to be positive and negative messages.

After passing out the candy hearts, Knight-Stukenborg gave a little history about the Valentine’s candy. She then asked for volunteers to read one of their candy hearts.

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One child shared a message on their Valentine candy that they felt was a negative message: “Don’t Tell.” That child explained that the message was saying they were supposed to keep the relationship a secret.

Juanita Rollins-Ecton, a domestic abuse victim advocate, explained to the kids that Teen Dating Violence is domestic violence, and she wanted them to understand that control and violence of any sort is not OK. They should tell an adult and not keep violence and threats a secret.

“It’s not a fun thing; it’s not meant to be fun,” said Jacquelyn Griffin, treatment manger and social worker. “This is the kind of thing that we deal with on a daily basis at the medical center.”

One Prairies member volunteered to share their candy heart message.

“Mine says ‘Adore Me,’ and I think that’s negative because they want you to only be with them and not anyone else.”

Knight-Stukenborg said that it’s during a separation and break-up that couples are most vulnerable. Family and friends should be vigilant. Teen dating violence can be with the male or female as the aggressor. Either way, intervention is a must.

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